Our pastor spent a great deal of time unpacking I Corinthians 13 this weekend. His purpose - to help us connect the dots between what we call love and what we really are experiencing - an emotion. In fact, his main purpose was to help us see the difference between the use of love as an adjective (we fall into love) and as a noun (an action word). You have probably struggled with the difference between the two, as well. We have a tendency to describe love - the feeling - instead of living the actions associated with true love.
We pondered your love-in-action, God, waiting in your temple: Your name, God, evokes a train of Hallelujahs wherever it is spoken, near and far; your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action. (Psalm 48:9-10 The Message)
Our psalmist has got it down - God is pondered best when our focus is on his actions! We see much revealed to us in terms of his love for us, simply by considering the magnitude of his actions on our behalf. For example, Israel looked back after crossing the Red Sea and erected a memorial as a "trigger" to be able to recall the amazing display of God's love in protecting them from the pursuing enemy. Generations would be able to see the memorial and be taught the greatness of God's love - holding back waters, preparing dry ground, and swallowing up the pursuing armies - evidence of his protection.
Do you know what the scripture is full of ... stories of God's love in action! In fact, you cannot enter any book of the 66 contained within the covers of the Bible without encountering his love! God never intended for us to connect his love with an emotional experience alone - he wanted the emotion of love to be connected directly to the action of love! Look at the prophet Hosea. Asked to take a woman of ill-repute (a prostitute) as his wife. For a Jew, this was the "clean" embracing the "unclean" - the righteous encountering the unrighteous. Imagine getting this message one day from God: "Find a whore and marry her. Make her the mother of your children." Can you say, "Scary"?
Yet, it was a tremendous example for all to see of the grace and mercy of our God toward the sinner. He was teaching Israel through Hosea's actions how he embraces the sinner, starts all over again with them - even if it takes "re-courting" us to win our hearts - he does it. Love in action! Even as they flirted with every other god - embracing sin repeatedly - he loved them again! If you aren't touched by this example of God's love, then I don't know what will touch your heart! God's love is overwhelmingly generous - way beyond our natural tendency to give grace and embrace those who turn their backs on us. His love "re-courts" us time and time again - until we are content to love only him!
Another story comes to mind - the story of a man who struggled with pride, wanting to be in the middle of everything, and too impulsive to control at times. Sound like anyone you might know? I know it sounds a lot like me! Peter was a fisherman. Plain and simple - he worked the seas each day, bringing in the "fruit" of his labor - in order to fill the bellies of the hungry in the village. In short order, his world changes - he is embraced by Jesus. He is asked to become the fisher of men. He muddles through all kinds of things in his journey with Jesus - at times displaying the greatest of faith, the next sinking deep into the depths of doubt and depression. Doubts because he acted often before he thought it through. Depression because it is not uncommon to feel low when you have failed.
Yet, in God's mercy, Peter was always embraced. Even when he displayed qualities which would have made most of us embarrassed - like when he cut off the ear of the high priest's servant when they came to take Jesus away. The Lord simply looked at Peter and healed the man's ear. Or maybe when he was waited in the courtyard of the high priest, looking to receive word of Jesus' fate - denying him three times. Jesus had warned him of this - yet he plunged full-speed ahead into his denials anyway. God's love in action - even the warning that we WILL sin! God's love in action - seeking out Peter to let him know how much he still loved him - enough to ask him once again to follow him and to lead others in following him.
I could recount example after example, but none is greater than the example of the one reading these words right now. You! God has sought you out - singled you out to be the object of his love. He has "acted" on your behalf over and over again. It is his love in action which is displayed in your life today. Let us learn from the example of his love - it is an action (a verb) - something we engage in, not something we merely feel! Just sayin....