Bankrupt: Unable to satisfy any just claim made upon an individual; lacking in a particular thing or quality. Today, as our economy tanks and our finances seem to be the focus of so many conversations, I'd like to take a moment to really focus on something we seldom spend much time thinking about - love. We throw the word "love" around like it was a "thing" rather than a quality, or an outflow of a person's life. For anyone who has been around a while, it is not uncommon to have heard some familiar passages quoted from the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. One of the best known: "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." I'd like us to back up a little and focus on the third verse this morning.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:3 MSG)
I think we have this concept of love which focuses more on some emotional experience. In looking at what Paul describes for the Corinthian church, he begins with the idea of saying, believing, and doing - all devoid of meaning without the "backing" of love. I think he may be focusing on the idea of "doing" without "meaning" what we are doing. If you want a good illustration of this, think back to the last time you were somewhere and thought to yourself or even said to another, "I am here, but I'd rather be anywhere else!" The "doing" was happening, but the "meaning" was missing. You were "at work", but you weren't really "into" work! You were "in conversation", but you weren't really "involved" in conversation!
There is a void created every time we are "doing" without "meaning". In life, we "do" a lot - I wonder how much "meaning" is behind all our "doing"? It is the holiday season - a time of shopping for the "perfect" gift, wrapping it just "right", discovering the "hidden" gift under the tree, and all that comes with this mad exchange of gifts. I wonder if we really are "doing" all that shopping with much "meaning" behind it? Or is it just that we have to have something under the tree for each individual on our list? The gift isn't made "perfect" by being crossed off our wishlist - it is made "perfect" in the meaning put into it by our actions!
Paul focuses on three things: Saying, Believing, and Doing. The words we say hold meaning - even if they are spoken in an absent-minded manner! The beliefs we form, and allow to be formed as a result of our actions, matter. The actions we take often reveal much more than our words or our beliefs! In this same chapter, Paul goes on to elaborate on these three things with ideas such as:
- Love cares more for others than for self. Link this to saying, and you see how he is focusing on not always having the last word. When we value the opinion of others, we don't need the last word. Link this to believing, and we begin to see the uniqueness of allowing another to develop their own understanding of things, prayerfully lifting them up so they will develop solid and consistent beliefs. Link this to doing, and we see how our actions reveal the importance of another in our lives.
- Love doesn't revel when others grovel. Link this to saying, and you will soon find yourself not waiting for another ask before you begin to respond to their need. Link this to believing, and you will begin to focus on building another's beliefs through constantly reinforcing the right ones and helping them to eliminate the ones which act as stumbling blocks. Link this to doing, and you will begin to lift another when they see themselves in any light other than as God sees them!
- Love always looks for the best. Link this to saying, and you will begin to find words which build up, avoiding those which point out fault. Link this to believing, and you will see others as God sees them - not as imperfect, but as perfect through Christ Jesus. Link this to doing, and you will begin to bring out the best in another - even when they are struggling to get the best out of themselves!
Love is practical. It is real. It is tough, but anything genuine is always tougher than anything imagined! I hope this holiday season is filled with all kinds of "saying", "believing", and "doing" which is "love-focused". In other words, "meaning" is backing all we are saying, believing, and doing! Just sayin!