Hello sweet friends! We are back in Texas after a fun time in Louisiana visiting family and working in New Orleans. My fingers have been yeeeearning for the keyboard, and I finally have a little sliver of time to myself this afternoon to share what has been on my heart!
Since the last time I wrote, there have been MANY things that have happened in the political sphere that have been tough for Christians, particularly gay marriage being legalized nationwide.
My number one question since that ruling has been, "Lord, how do I respond?" Do I speak out? Do I write a post about Biblical marriage? Should I state my case and defend my beliefs? Should I write about homosexuality or gender identity? Do I just not write anything at all?
As I have mulled over this in my mind, asking God if there is anything He wants me to say, I have heard again and again God asking me this one simple question:
How have you loved today?
Sometimes I think it is really easy to get so caught up in the events going on in our world that we as Christians step down from our position of love, and start focusing more on defending ourselves or proving ourselves right. While it is important for us to take a stand for truth, if we don't do so with the motive of love, then our efforts will be futile. If we don't keep love at the center of everything we do, then are we really sharing the Gospel the way that Jesus commanded us to in the first place? If I have spent more time defending myself on Facebook or arguing about an issue than serving, loving, praying, giving to and spending time with actual people face to face, then all that time spent defending and arguing is just a waste.
In asking myself this question, I have been reading over 1 Corinthians 13 again and again trying to understand what true love looks like. Today we are going to look at the first 5 characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13, and tomorrow we'll look at the rest. This is what the Lord has shown me so far:
1. Love is patient.
Have I loved patiently today?
Patience is not just referring to how to act when sitting in traffic or when waiting in line for frozen yogurt. Patience also refers to a steadfastness that God asks of us when sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. Have I been patient for God to soften the hearts of my friends, or have I impatiently shoved the truth down their throats? According to the Bible, God says that He has called some of us to plant the seed, some of us to water the seed and some of us to harvest the seed. Are we trusting God that the role He has for us to play is enough?
Loving patiently means that when we share the truth with our friends, we don't get frustrated when they don't give their lives to Jesus right away. We must patiently continue to be obedient and love on our friends and families and coworkers just as Jesus would. And we must TRUST that God will prove faithful in our friends' lives.
I am so thankful that Jesus is patient with me. All these years of battling fear and depression, and Jesus has never scoffed at me or rolled His eyes at me, but has instead walked patiently while I learn to walk in the truth.
2. Love is kind.
Have I loved kindly today?
Kindness is one of the best ways to show the love of Jesus. The Bible says that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. Am I being kind to people? Am I considering their circumstances and asking about their day? Am I showing true care about what is going on in their lives? Am I being compassionate? Am I feeding those who are hungry, visiting with those who are lonely and clothing those who are naked? When I post an article on Facebook, is it kind?
It would go a whole lot further if we as Christians were more worried about being kind than about being right. It would go a whole lot further if we were out there buying people's groceries, praying for people, giving people a hug, smiling at people or telling them how much Jesus loves them than it would to sit around talking about how terrible the world is. Can we decide together that we are going to be characterized by our kindness instead of by our arguing and complaining? Let's make sure that we are loving KINDLY today!
3. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Am I being prideful in my walk with Jesus?
Once we have walked with Jesus for a little while, sometimes we have a tendency to forget where we were before we found Jesus. It can be tempting to take pride in our works. It can be tempting to see ourselves as "more righteous than the wicked sinners around us." But we must remember that any of the good that is inside of us today did not originate within us, but rather it comes from the Spirit of God.
When Jesus came to the Earth, He actually had reason to boast and brag. He could have taken pride in His perfection. But Jesus, being the ONLY person who never sinned, was not too proud to hang out with sinners. He did not place Himself on a pedestal, but instead stepped down from His place in Heaven to play the role of a servant and serve those around Him. He loved on, served, embraced, gave to, fed and taught the sinners. He was willing to get dirty with them. He was willing to face ridicule from His friends in order to minister to those that needed Him. And friends, this is what Jesus wants us to do today.
Yes, God calls us to live righteously, but if we separate ourselves from non-Christians and gloat about how righteous we are, then we are no better than the Pharisees. If Jesus couldn't tolerate the pride of the Pharisees, how much more repulsive is our pride to the unbelievers around us? True love is not proud.
4. Love does not dishonor others.
I'm not sure at what point it became okay to use the name of Jesus to tear others down... but according to Paul, love does not dishonor others. So that means when you see that really annoying political post on Facebook, Christian love does not respond with phrases such as, "You wicked person, I can't wait until the wrath of God comes upon you," or "You are so ignorant," or "Bless you child, may God have mercy on your sinful soul."
Being a Christian does not give us the license to tear people down. We as Christians should be known instead for how we build others up. If someone has an opposing view, and if you feel led to say something about it, why not pray about it or send a one-on-one message, or make a phone call or meet face to face rather than blasting their Facebook feed with belittling words? We as Christians should always check that what we are writing is honoring to other people. Sometimes our "view" and our "politics" get in the way of our love. And this is not okay. Let's build people up, point them to Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit change them as He needs to while changing in us what needs to be changed too.
5. Love does not demand its own way.
This means that even though we as Christians know the truth, we do not force others to believe the way we do. As hard as it is to watch a friend or family member reject God, the solution to that is not to force them into a relationship with God. This is NOT the heart of God. The Gospel message is a message that is to be preached in love, not with force. It wouldn't truly be love if God forced our hand to follow Him. We as Christians have the truth. The most amazing, precious truth. We know that the penalty of sin is eternal death. We know that the only way to avoid eternal death is by trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We know the amazingness of our God and the beauty of the freedom that only He can provide. And sometimes we get so zealous, so excited, so desperate for others to follow Christ that we start demanding people to follow Him. But love does not make demands on people... except in the case of mothers telling their toddlers what to do of course ;)
Reading through 1 Corinthians 13 has brought so much conviction to my life so far. I have had to confess, repent, and make changes to my behavior and attitude. My prayer is that through looking closely at these verses, we will learn how to love like God teaches us to love. And that as we love better, more people would be drawn to Christ!!!
Join me back here tomorrow (said lovingly not demandingly...) as we look at the second half of this section of Scripture!