If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG)
Every now and again, I like to look at this list of what love 'is' and 'is not' just to do a little 'inventory' of how I am doing in the "love others" and the "love myself" category. Yeah, you heard me right - there are times I do things because I love myself - not all things we do for ourselves is bad or wrong, ya know! We all have one thing in common - we are bankrupt without love - we get nowhere in life if the love of God hasn't consumed us. No matter what we say or do, without his love at the center of our lives - we are just a bunch of empty people. Love never gives up on us and I think that is probably the most significant part of this passage - God's unending desire to see us made whole again - filled to overflowing with his grace. To that end, God continues to pursue us day and night with an earnestness that suggests he isn't finished with us and we aren't finished with him!
Love cares more for others than for self, but it isn't wrong to take care of yourself. All God is asking is that we keep the right focus in everything we do - don't do something for selfish reasons, with only yourself in mind. Why do we take care of our bodies? They are the temple of the Holy Spirit - so we take care. They are used to bless others - so we take care. They are to be instruments of his grace - so we take care. We learn to care for ourselves and in turn, we are learning to take care of others. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. I don't have the body of a twenty-five year gymnast anymore and I am not likely to ever return to that 'stately appearance' in this lifetime. Is it wrong to desire a healthy body? No, but don't let the desire to 'look' a certain way consume you. The only thing that should consume us is God's love - let that love guide how you see yourself and you are likely to become very content with how God has made you.
Love doesn't strut or have a swelled head, but it isn't afraid to share the joy and peace that is experienced with knowing God deeply. Not in a forceful way, but with gentleness and kindness - allowing the evidence of grace to impact our world through out actions of love. We have all probably seen those bumper stickers on a car that encourage to the world to love, bring peace, or practice 'random' acts of kindness. I might just encourage us to find a way to practice some 'purposeful' acts of kindness before we explore the random ones! There are those right there in front of us that need 'purposeful' acts of love today. Let God show us how to love those he has placed in our path and we might just be surprised how those acts of love multiply into many, many more 'random' acts of love.
Love doesn't fly into a rage, nor does it keep score when others have done something 'less than loving' in our lives. This is a hard one because we all want to be treated well and when that doesn't happen as we expect, we feel slighted or wronged. Have you ever been guilty of making someone 'grovel' for your forgiveness? Or worse yet, have you been on the groveling end? What's up with that? God's goodness in our lives isn't based on what we deserve, so the forgiveness we extend to others when they are 'less than loving' to us isn't ever based on what they deserve, either. Truth 'flowers' where grace abounds. There is no greater gift we can give sometimes than the gift of forgiveness - allowing truth to blossom and the beauty of grace to fill our lives. Probably one of the hardest things we do each day is trusting God with the stuff we don't understand - the hard stuff we don't think we 'deserve' in life.
Love trust unceasingly - even in the midst of hardship. It keeps going when all others shrink away or cannot keep up. It is like that old jingle from the Timex commercials, "It takes a licking, and keeps on ticking". Love isn't easy - it isn't without bumps. Love doesn't pull back when it seems there is resistance - it presses forward, knowing grace is just around the corner. We might 'push' a little harder in some areas of our lives because we know grace is just around the corner. Don't pull back - press on and press in. Don't give up, for it is not the 'trying' that makes the difference, it is the consistency of coming back time and time again to 'train' one's mind, body, and spirit in the grace and love of God that we become more and more like him. Just sayin!