1 Corinthians 13:5

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

If I were going to make an arbitrary list of what love is, I could not possibly make a list more contrary to our nature than the list God gives in 1 Corinthians.

Although pieces of 1 Corinthians 13 can be found in frames or Christian greeting cards . . and although the words are likely to be in cursive or italics . . and although we seem to somehow think 1 Corinthians 13 is romantically suited for our weddings . . if we are realistic about who we are as humans, we would be more likely to write the words in large, black capital letters with a hazard symbol framing them.

WARNING: SCARY WORDS FROM GOD.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Somehow we get caught up in pink flowers and calligraphy and miss the terror of God’s Words!  Love is what?  Rather than placidly smile when we hear God’s ideas about love, we would be more honest to shrink back in horror.

It does not dishonor others . .

Most American jokes are founded on the principle of dishonoring someone.  Make fun of someone, laugh at someone else’s expense.  Most fame is achieved by pushing down hard on the masses or by breakneck competition to elevate yourself to greatness.

But dishonoring is more insidious than even jokes and ambitions.  We dishonor all the time with barely any knowledge (or guilt) of what we’re doing.  We speak bad of a spouse (or ex), child, in-law, sister, brother, friend, coworker, boss, celebrity, government leader, or rude sales clerk without batting an eye.

And it takes no effort for us to do things that dishonor others: like jerking our car out in the lane and squeezing it in, forcing the car behind us to brake . . telling a lie . . leaving a pile of store clothes on the bench in the dressing room . . gossiping about someone with the guise of caring about them . . throwing together a quick dinner for family instead of taking the time to make a nice meal to have more time for a computer game . . and on and on and on.  Not only do we dishonor habitually, but we are incredibly defensive about it.  Should someone ever accuse us of what we are actually doing, we can find a million excuses for our behavior (and dishonor our accuser with our retort).

it is not self-seeking . .

On many days, this would rule out 99-100% of what we do.  Love is not self-seeking, God says.  If we ever doubted before, we should know the moment we read these words that love can only come from God.

Human nature self-seeks.  Not occasionally.  Not even habitually.  But constantly.  We don’t know how to do anything else, nor do we want to know!  Anything secular has one core purpose: to self-seek.

Movies are our self-seek for entertainment.  Shopping our self-seek for possessions.  Careers our self-seek for achievement.  Relationships our self-seek for fulfillment.  Even when we buy things for others or do acts of service for them, so often our heart is self-seeking honor.  We want to be congratulated, appreciated, admired, looked up to.

Love, without Christ as its Author, is nothing more than a self-seeking venture.

Parents love so their children will make them proud, love them back, take care of them when they’re older, etc.

Friends love to promote their status, get attention, not feel so lonely, etc.

Workers pretend to love their bosses in hope of promotions, better hours, good reviews, etc.

Couples share romance only to the extent that they think they will receive something back from what they give.

. . it is not easily angered . .

Our society makes its living on anger.  Anger fuels most courts, hosts many talk shows, drives many cartoons, and is the star of many reality shows.  Anger is used to power adrenaline in suspense and horror movies.  People exercise, go to counseling, and take medication to try to get rid of anger.  Some people even think revenge is a healthy or necessary way to get rid of anger!

Somehow, in our society, you often become more important if you are an angry person.  People pay more attention to you.  You get more respect.  You may even get your own television show.  But in God’s view, there is no reward for being easily angry but rather it is a sign that you do not truly love (and, according to Proverbs, that you are not wise).

. . it keeps no record of wrongs.

This explanation destroys the concept that you can be bitter and loving.  1 Corinthians 13 leaves no room for question: you cannot love and keep a scorecard of what someone has done wrong.

Before we get up in arms about the impossibility this definition of love seems to bring, let’s reflect on God’s love.  If He kept a record of wrongs against us after He Himself paid for our sins—if He held even one or two sins back from forgiveness—would any of us make it into Heaven?

The only way we can be saved is because God does not desire to keep a record of wrongs!  Because He is just, He has to punish sin.  But because He doesn’t want to keep a record of our wrongs, He Himself bore the punishment for our sins.  If He treated us even remotely like we treat our family, friends, in-laws, coworkers, bosses, and, worst of all, spouses, we would have no hope of any invitation into Heaven.  God would drop His covenant with us the way we drop our covenant with a husband or wife in divorce court.

But since God isn’t like us, He chooses to keep no record of wrongs.  Actually, since Christ paid for all our sins, only if we reject Him can we re-reveal the record of our wrongs!  God has given us the gift of wiping our slate clean—again and again.  Do we even try to do that for others?

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

No longer should we read 1 Corinthians 13 with sentimental complacency or passive approval.  We should rather read with deliberate reverence, an awe for God’s love, and a longing to reflect His love to everyone around us.

Personally, right now, what will you and I do to reflect the image of love we see in this verse?  Who specifically will we reach with a truth from this verse?  If you know God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of love, then you can imitate the qualities you see in this verse.  You and I can begin to honor others, love selflessly, practice temperance, and throw away the scorecards of past wounds.  And we can do this through the love of Jesus Christ.

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

Advertisements
Published in: on May 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:4 is packed with 5 punches about what love is and is not:
• It is patient
• It is kind
• It does not envy
• It does not boast

I think of an electrical outlet power strip with every plug taken when I reflect on this verse!  The verse is amped with truth, and it’s as if Paul gives us just as much as we can handle before a power surge knocks us out!

Everything Paul says about love here; everything God has given him to say . . is nothing like what most of us grow up to believe love is.  Yet God, the source of love, the Creator of love, is the One who really knows what love is.  If anyone would know what love is, it’s God.  When it comes to defining love, He would know how.  When we want to know what love is, we should go to Him to hear what He has to say.

#1

Love is patient . .

God’s love is patient.

The world’s love isn’t.

The world’s love says, Catch up or get lost. The world’s love says, One more strike and you’re out.  The world’s love says, I have rights I demand before I can give out love. The world’s love says, I’m not waiting on you anymore.  The world’s love is filled with strained and broken relationships, and relationships that never even took place because they required too much patience.

Isn’t it a sign of our corrupted moral nature, how we can be so patient with issues of intellect, but so impatient with issues of the heart?

We’ll spend years learning how to bake a prize-winning cake or wood-carve masterfully or swim at a professional level.

We’ll spend months taking college courses or staying in a job we don’t like until we earn the education/experience needed for the career we want.

We’ll spend weeks hashing out an error on a bill or researching which Satellite company we should choose or which Plasma screen TV we should buy or which dress to wear to an important function.

But many times we won’t spend even an hour thinking about how to love someone besides ourselves.

I don’t mean how to show someone “love” so that they’ll want to repay us for our kindness, but how to really love someone besides ourselves.

We usually won’t take the time to think about how to better love people we really do love, much less people we’re in conflict with or those we don’t know well.

We are not patient with love.

It’s as if we want someone to come right off the factory conveyer belt, programmed with all the right words and behaviors, ready to fully love us the way we desire. We expect it of our parents, our children, our coworkers, our friends, customer service workers, and especially our spouses.

But what if God treated us that way. Would any of us have ‘made the cut’ to receive His love?

Scripture says no.

#2

.. love is kind.

We are not kind beings by nature.  Check out a daycare facility or nursing home, and you will probably come to this conclusion.  We do not naturally love each other. Love is to us, in fact, supernatural.  It didn’t used to be this way, back when we had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden, but it is now.

Our society builds its concept of love around power, lust, entertainment, popularity, and wealth.  It’s no wonder we have such poor understanding of love; yet we are not innocent in the matter.  In our own families, with our own friends, and with everyone around us (including those who work for or with us and strangers) we emulate poor models of love to be carried on to the next generation.

#3

It does not envy.

Hollywood makes its living on envy.

Back in the day, I used to be fascinated by looking at celebrity “look alike” outfits.  For ‘only’ a few hundred dollars, you could have a look that imitated a beautiful actress whose outfit was worth thousands.  Perhaps more important than who wins movie awards is what an actor or actress is wearing on the red carpet.

Women can easily be sucked into a vortex of obsession with fashion.  I used to love to look at outfit ensembles, complete with some ‘must-have’ accessories like a clutch purse or lip gloss. I would think, sadly, that if I could have that outfit, I could be the object of affection and men could lust over me now.

It goes both ways. Many women believe love is the ability to make a man lust for them.  And many men believe love is lusting after a woman.  It is no wonder that in a culture where envy is not just accepted, but publicized, where the mark of a woman is how envious she can make other women, that the concept of love without envy is as foreign as a MacDonald’s without hamburgers.

#4

It does not boast . .

Magazines are in the business of boasting.  Romance novels and porn sites boast they offer better romances that true love can create.  Sitcoms, blockbuster movies, epic video games, and best-selling books often boast that they can give more happiness that love-in-real-life ever could.

Most of our culture is about boasting.  We boast who has the biggest wedding ring, the most thoughtful husband, the best behaved children, the best remodeled home, even the sweetest puppy!

Humility isn’t just unwanted, it’s unknown.

Celebrities don’t teach it to us.  The secular world is clueless when it comes to humility. But sadly, so is much of the Christian world.  We think of the word with dread, and associate it with actions of self-denial and (gasp!) self-control.

#5

. . it is not proud.

This is the final shocking reel of verse 4.  For many of us, the reason we love is to feel pride!  We want to have someone to show off, brag about, or some gift that we can showcase.  We want to prove to others we are really important by who we boast loves us.  (Why, after all, do preteen girls hang posters of teenage boys and pass out their Valentines?  The boy in the photograph looks as if he is selectively in love with her–whoever owns the poster, holds the Valentine.)

Love becomes a commodity to barter with, a currency to exchange, a stock to broker.

Love becomes about what we get out of it, not what we give to it. Love that sacrifices without expectation that the inconvenience or gift can ever be repaid is nearly unheard of.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

Love that is patient and kind; love without envy, boasting, or pride . . that love could only be God’s love.

There is no way we could be good enough or talented enough or even self-disciplined enough to get that kind of love in this life.

The only way we could have and experience that love is if God gave it to us as a gift.

He did, through His Son.

When we believe in Him, we can begin to learn about love: real love, true love, everlasting love. We can begin to recognize and practice a love we have never known before.

And then, rather than being electrocuted or short-circuited by the power of God’s love, we will be illuminated by His love, channeled through His love, and energized from His love to share that love with everyone around us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:3, Part 2

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

In the first part of this little reflection of 1 Corinthians 13:3, I really talked about one side of the coin: Giving of yourself without love is not what God desires.

In the second part, I want to talk about the other side of the coin: Loving without giving of yourself is not what God desires, either.

I think there is an easy “slide” that goes something like this: God doesn’t even count all that money AND TIME people give to the poor when they have bad motives . . Just look at Jenny Sue.  She’s always helping out at the soup kitchen just to make herself look sweet.  Well, I’m no hypocrite.  I’m just not going to give my money or time to the poor.  I’ll just love God from my heart, and I’ll be real about it.

Hold on.  God wants us to give of ourselves only with love.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to give of ourselves.

That logic doesn’t work.  What if I said, “I don’t want to you to bring home groceries if it’s going to be junk food.”  Does that mean I don’t want you to bring home groceries?

Have you ever had somebody help you in a way that wasn’t helpful, but when you suggest a way that is helpful, they get offended and don’t want to help anymore?  What they don’t understand is that they weren’t helping in the first place and they could really have been helpful if they’d listened!

1 Corinthians 13:3 is not giving you an excuse to withdraw from missions or withhold contributions.  Instead, the focus is on doing everything for God for the right reason, which is love.

If God calls me to give all my money to the poor, or go serve Him in a rural village without electricity, I can’t choose to disobey Him because I don’t love.  Instead, I am commanded to obey Him in love.  Obedience and love go hand in hand when it’s God we’re talking about.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV)

Jesus isn’t asking us to think about loving.  He’s commanding us, who are believers, to love.  And we can have confidence we can obey Him because He has given us new hearts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26, HCSB)

Early on, I told Ben how special cards are to me, especially store-bought cards, especially if they have a Hallmark symbol on them.  😉  I grew up watching Hallmark movies with the Hallmark commercials in between movie scenes.  I often loved the commercials as much as the movies!  My little girl heart was wooed by the little boy who placed dinosaur stickers on a card for his mother and drew a Hallmark symbol on the back.  (That was probably my favorite commercial of Hallmark’s, but I could happily own DVD’s of the commercials.)

Anyway, Ben came from, well, an opposite point of view.  That holidays had been commercialized by greeting card companies to say cheap, trite sentiments and make wallets lighter.  (Apparently he hadn’t watched the commercial with the little boy and the dinosaur stickers.)

He expressed his opinion to me and I was quite a lot of unhappy about it.  First, since I had been 7 years old or so and watched my first Hallmark movie, the commercials had begun prepping me for that a knight in shining armor who was going to buy me Hallmark cards someday.

Hallmark didn’t need to target commercials to boys like Ben.  Why?  Because, one day, Hallmark-grouching boys like Ben may fall in love with Hallmark-dreamy girls like me and then they’ll be the ones in the Hallmark store, shelling out the dollars.  🙂

And that is just what happened.  (Well, Ben does usually buy me other brands of cards, but we’re working up to the Hallmarks.  Baby steps. 😉 )

Ben realized that greeting cards need no translation into my love language.

In my head are dreams of envelopes with a gold seal.  I will open the envelope without tearing it, and inside will be a beautiful, big Hallmark card.  (I will know because, like everyone in the commercials, I will turn it over and check the back.)  And then something really romantic will happen.  Swans will sing.  Or fireworks will start.  Or we’ll be standing next to a water fountain.  Or we’ll be on an ice skating rink even though I can’t skate and will probably twist my ankle.  Or we’ll be in a forest with autumn leaves.  Or we’ll be on a rocky ocean bank with seagulls in the background.  Or maybe it’ll be over a candlelight dinner at Christmas time.

So I will open that envelope, and inside will be that Hallmark card, and then we’ll get married (we’ll have to, because he got me a Hallmark card).  😀

Today I opened one of the cards I have unopened still from the mailbox.  It had flowers, and cursive words on the front.  That was a real good sign.  The edge was even scalloped.  And there was a long, handwritten message on the inside.  And the card had my name above the little poem on the inside, and his name below.  It wasn’t a Hallmark, but it did cost $3.89, so I felt really good about it.  🙂

Now why did he go and buy a commercialized greeting card for me?  He, who was once the anti-card-industry spokesperson?  😉  I’ll tell you why.  Because he loves me!

You know, when we love God, we do things we might not do on our own.  We might give money that’s hard to give, to somebody who needs it more than we do.  We might quit our job and move to a village that has never heard the Good News of Christ.

I would never have wanted a card from Ben if he’d tossed it at me and said, “I hate these, but here you go.”  In the same way, God doesn’t want gifts of money or service that are given grudgingly or egotistically.  God wants us to give out of love.  Otherwise, the gift is as empty as a card would be from Ben if he’d grabbed the first one off the shelf, signed it fast, and jammed in an envelope.

God doesn’t want only our allegiance.  He wants our devotion.

The point of 1 Corinthians 13:3 isn’t that we don’t give.  The point of this verse is that we give from love.

I love my card, Ben.

And God loves when we give out of love for Him.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:3

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

This is a hard verse for me.

So many times, my mind has skated by it like a speed skater, breezing by this verse. Over top the ice of a cold heart, I’ve thought mindless thoughts like, Ah yes, love; the love chapter; isn’t love nice? . . never really looking at what God’s Word is saying.

If I had skidded to a stop, ice flecks bursting from my skates, and taken a look at the rose of 1 Corinthians 13:3, I would have realized an immediate,

WHAT?

WHAT??

WHAT!!!

This verse dismantles nearly every trophy I hold on the shelf of Christian living.

Giving to the poor?  Giving my body to hardship??  NOTHING?!?

NOTHING!!!

I’m actually a bit outraged.

Do You mean, God, that I can give my paycheck to poor children around the world . . eat pork and beans the rest of my life . . witness with a megaphone outside sports stadiums and have hamburgers and hot dogs thrown at me . . stand outside abortion clinics to pray and get screamed at . . drive a rickety old car for 20 years . . fund the education of a hundred children . . give my retirement savings to missionaries . . adopt an orphan . . go to a village without plumbing or electricity and spend the rest of my years there . . skip desserts to feed the homeless . . raise money for a new hospital in a developing country . . be on call 24/7 for girls in crisis pregnancies . . AND build a well with my own sweat and tears for a village BUT not get ANY credit for it because I didn’t do it out of love???

Something in me wants to become VERY indignant.  Something in me wants to protest, “That’s not fair!”  And something in me wants to fold my arms and glare up at God.

Do you know why?

Because it’s second-nature for me not to do things out of love.  Really, it’s first-nature.

I don’t have to try not to love someone.  It’s no work at all.  That doesn’t mean I naturally treat everyone like scum and abuse them.  It just means I can very easily (with or without thought) place my needs above theirs.

I can be discreet about my selfishness but still act selfishly.

I can pretend I care but really be faux listening in faux sympathy so that someone will say of me, Oh, that saint, she is so saintly.

I can carry on as though I’m encouraging someone for their own sake, when I’m really complimenting them so they’ll compliment me.

I can plan a generous act that looks like I’m trying to hide my benevolence just so someone will catch me at doing it.

I can gossip while looking as though I’m really actually concerned about someone (who isn’t, of course, present to the conversation).

I can even pretend to be very sweet while throwing out daggers.

I may not usually identify myself in the moment as acting without love, but when I look back, oh, I can see it.

How often do I really love somebody?

It’s a question that I feel God’s brought to my heart lately.  It’s something I guess I’ve often assumed I had a lot of.  After all, people usually say I’m sweet and kind and loving.  I guess that translated to me as really being those things.  But when I stop and assess my motives,

How often do I really love somebody, defining love as 1 Corinthians 13 does?

Not. Very. Often.

Diligent?  I can be diligent.  You want a bit of self-sacrifice?  I can muster it.  You demand loyalty?  I can sometimes come through for you.  Need zealousness?  You got it.  But ask me for love?

Why is it so hard to love?

I mean, it’s easy to love in the way Jesus talks about even unscrupulous people loving: loving friends and family who are nice to you (see Matthew 5:43-48).  Hey, we can all love like that.  But that’s not really love.  That’s more like what a dog feels for the owner who is secretly dubbed Mr. or Mrs. Treatsie.

Do you think that if you didn’t have treats to offer, and your next door neighbor did, your dog wouldn’t bury his collar in the backyard and jump the fence faster than you can say Lassie?  Why do we have fences and leashes, anyway?  Isn’t it because dogs aren’t really loyal?

You can train a dog to be loyal, in response to treats and conditioning, but that doesn’t mean your dog really wants to be loyal.  Here’s a simple test.  Sit in the living room on one end of the couch with no food, and have a random stranger off the street sit at the other end with a piece of steak.

Does Fido remember who gave him the bubbly bath last night, bought Greenies every week for him, paid the $800 for surgery on his broken leg instead of putting him to sleep, bought a trunk load of squeaky toys, and filled his bowl every morning and night faithfully for the last 5 years?

Test Fido with the steak, and you will see.

. . But we can’t really be hard on Fido.  After all, don’t we do the same?  I mean, does it matter how many times your husband changed the oil in your car, or your wife cooked you dinner, at the moment you’re having an argument?  Do you think back on those happy first dates during a conflict?  Do you say, Dear, you forgot to put your dirty socks in the laundry basket for the 9,000th time today, but I was just thinking about that time you bought me that beautiful bouquet of roses as a surprise.  Do you remember that?  Wasn’t that wonderful?

Our hearts are set on self-fulfillment, not on love.

To love with the hearts we have as sinners is like asking a snail to get his doctorate in biochemistry online in two semesters.

It’s not happening.  But if we know we believe in Christ, He can do what no amount of effort on our part can: He can take our old hearts away and give us new ones.

That doesn’t mean we immediately love perfectly when we become believers.  We have to learn how to use our new hearts.  But how do we learn?  Not from instinct.  Instinct will cause us to try to use our new hearts like we used our old ones.

The only way we can ever love is for Christ to teach us how to love with our new hearts.  We learn by listening to, obeying, and closely following Him.  He is the only one who can teach our new hearts to beat, and He is the only one who can inspire us to do anything out of a motive that is not gain nothing selfish.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:2, Part 2

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV)

Would you like to be able to tell Mount Gibraltar to move to another continent?

That would get you plenty of media attention, but it wouldn’t impress God.

Would you like to able to heal the sick?  End a drought?  Part waters?

God knows why we want to do it–what our real motive is.

I saw the previews for a very blasphemous movie that came out to attack the power of God.  In the movie, a man was supposedly given God’s power and he could do whatever he wanted.  The ‘comedy’ was that he did ridiculous and sinful things.

It isn’t funny.

God’s power is not a gadget.  It is not a joke.  It is not a tool to get what you want out of life.  It is not given to impress your friends, elevate your status, get revenge for you, or fulfill your sinful desires.  God’s power reveals to the world His authority, righteousness, and love.  And, until Judgment Day, His power is always revealed on earth to draw people to Him.

Why did God have the flood swallow up the immoral world, have the sea swallow up the Egyptian army, have the land swallow up Korah, have the drought swallow up rain?  It wasn’t because He had to punish those people then and there.  Whether we are punished in this life or not, we will face the consequences for our actions–or the mercy of forgiveness through Christ Jesus!–on Judgement Day.  God didn’t have to punish anyone before Judgment Day.  So why did He?

To draw us to Him!  Every time God intercedes in a miraculous way, whether to bring immediate judgment, like the fire and sulfur raining down on Sodom and Gomorrah, or immediate grace, like manna falling from the sky to feed a hungry people, or immediate healing, like the man whose crippled hand became useful again, He does it so that we will seek Him!

Faith, in itself, is not saving, unless that faith is in Christ.  Once the anchor of faith in Christ is thrown, it lands in the ocean of His love.  We cannot be a part of Christ and not love, John is clear about that (see his letters).

Faith without love is destructive.  The terrorists who blow themselves and others up must have a strong faith to die for what they believe.  But that faith is not anchored in love, because God is love, and they do not know God.  Faith without God is one of the most dangerous things in the world.  I have a feeling that the demons had faith that Satan would be victorious when they betrayed their allegiance to God.  I would guess that Satan had faith that he could defeat God, then had faith that he could defeat the incarnate Christ, and now has faith that he can defeat God’s people.

Telling Mount Gibraltar to take a hike is an act that, if done without love, would please Satan, not God.  God works in this world for our good, not to show off His power.  And He wants us to use our faith for the good of others, not to try to flex our religious muscles to win a crowd.

On a last note, faith without love masquerading as Christianity can wound the faith of others or give them an excuse to turn them away from believing.  My father, in his illness with ALS and battle with dementia, decided to go to a “faith healer”–something he would never have done in his right state of mind and without the fear of death in front of him.  Faith healers who do not genuinely heal people but only fleece them for their money are not acting with Christ, but instead attacking the weakest of His and also confusing unbelievers.

No one in the Bible–not one–who ever did something miraculous asked money for it.  In fact, Peter found in abominable when a magician tried to pay him for the power of God (see Acts 8:9-24).  For more information on the deception of false faith masquerading to steal money from people who are very ill, see the classic book Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff.

Faith that can move mountains without love is faith that would be better not shown.

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:2, Part 1

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV)

I used to be a mystery TV/movie junkie.  I would watch show after show of someone getting murdered and someone trying to figure out who did it.  In most movies and shows, the directors try to trick you with all kinds of misleading clues, by who they feature as suspects, by camera angles, etc.

Even as a kid, I loved mysteries.  I had mystery books and mystery series: mysteries where girls solved the cases, where boys solved the cases, where dogs solved the mystery, and where mice–yes, even mice–solved the mystery.

What is it about mysteries that captures our attention?  Isn’t it our pride?

After all, we want to be the one to solve the mysteryAnd we want to solve it first, before anyone else does, including Aunt Doris who is the best mystery solver we know.  We want to have bragging rights that we figured the mystery out in a mere 5 minutes of the show, that we hadn’t even finished our first tub of popcorn at the theater before we knew ‘who done it’.

But . . you know what?

No one is going to stand before God on Judgment Day and proudly announce, “Do you remember that Nancy Drew mystery that none of my classmates could solve?  I figured it out after the first chapter.”

All right, you may say, I follow so far.  But then it gets harder.

No one is going to stand before God on Judgment Day and proudly announce that (s)he solved any mystery.

Did you figure out end-times eschatology?  It’s not going to impress God.

Did you invent a new rocket fuel and travel to Mars in 5 minutes?  God is not amazed.

Did you find a way for cars to run on soda pop instead of gasoline?  Nope, won’t impress God.

Did you come up with a cure for a disease?  You know what?  That, in itself, still won’t impress God.

What!?!  Why??

Because, if you didn’t do it for love, it doesn’t count to your credit.  If you found a cure so you could create a patent pharmaceutical and make millions, that doesn’t impress God.  If you found a cure so you could win the Nobel Peace Prize, that doesn’t impress God, either.

Knowledge is knowing.  It doesn’t say what you did with the knowledge, or why you did what you did.  It just says you knew.

Can knowledge help others?  Not in and of itself.  If you know a way to diffuse nuclear bombs from a thousand miles away, but you never share that knowledge–or if you use that knowledge for selfish ambition–you haven’t done anything majestic at all.  Knowledge, in and of itself, is not wow.

We put a high rank on knowing in this world.  We frame our diplomas, buy graduation rings, and call each other by titles based on what we “know”.  In some countries, knowledge is the focus of life.  In India, for example, such a high value is placed on knowledge that a high school student who fails his exam is at risk for committing suicide.

But do you know what?  Knowledge doesn’t say anything about the nature of who we are in our heart.

God has knowledge of good and evil, but He is only good.

Satan has knowledge of good and evil, but he is only evil.

Knowledge is what is in our mind, but it is our hearts that tell us what do with it.

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:1, Part 2

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)

Yesterday, I opened an envelope.  Little paper hearts spilled out over the card before I’d even opened the card.  They fell in my lap, and this lovely feeling of like a violin playing next to Prussian blue waters and swans swimming on the silky stained glass of the water’s surface came over me.  I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the so-called ‘enlightment’ all the meditation in the world could bring.  I wouldn’t trade that feeling for 10,000 years worth of knowledge.  Why?  Because I love love.

Love speaks to us something extraordinary.  Something that breaks out of the cycle of lies like a firefighter breaking through a wall to save an unconscious victim.  Love rescues us.  Love grabs us in its arms and carries us out of the charcoal and ash that loveless lives bring.

But have you ever wondered why we love love?

We love love because we are made in the image of God.  And the God whose image we are made in is a God of love.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . .” (Genesis 1:26a, NIV)

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:1, Part 1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)

I used to like theater much more than I do now.  Now when I go, I discover an emptiness that I didn’t notice before I belonged to Christ.

The last secular show I remember going to was a famous show.  I don’t want to go into the plot, but throughout the show there was a motif of hitting a small drum in an overwhelmingly monotonous, rhythmic pattern, and chanting Alice-in-Wonderland-type nonsense.  The theme was the circle of life–reincarnation, if you will–and how you have to let go of everything, and everyone who you love to find peace.

In the most moving scene, the main character is struggling with his mother’s death.  He has given his life to the cause of meditation, and he hadn’t seen his mother in years.  He dances with his mother in a dream, and her memory disturbs his meditation, throws him off track to knowing ‘nothing-and-everything’.  The dance is the most beautiful I have ever seen of the struggle with loss, but in the end, he releases her, and she vanishes from him.  He releases not just his mother, but the memories of his mother.  He parts with his love for his mother, and he goes back to the brain-numbing chant and the rhythmic drum.

Reflecting on a resounding gong and clanging cymbal, this play came back to mind.  The idea of giving up love for knowledge, wisdom, peace, meditation . . whatever we give it up for, the idea of giving up love.

All-but-one religions throughout history have been chanting that you need to give up love.  Love of some kind.  Love for your neighbor, who believes differently than you.  Or love for your child, to sacrifice on the altar.  Or love for the foreigner, who you mistrust.  Or love for romance, to live a celibate life.  Or love for the poor, so they can be inferior to you.  Or love for family, to join a cult.  Or love for truth, to accept the lies of false peace.

All world religions that have ever been, all but one, always ask you most of all to give up the greatest love of all: your love for God. Sacrifice God.  Lay Him on the altar and burn Him for your dreams, ambitions, power, lust, pride, ideals, relationships, etc.

But . .

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

Without His love, our lives really are nothing more than the zombifying beat of a drum.  There really is nothing to look forward to, only an endless circle of the repeat of the endless circle of the repeat . .

But His love changes all that.

Check out: He Chose the Nails, Max Lucado (an audio of the unabridged book is available through iTunes)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)