I think most of us have heard a fair amount about love. As Christians we know the first commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength…and our neighbor as ourselves…. “the Golden Rule”. Despite all the misconceptions about love today, we know that love requires sacrifice, requires putting others before our self.
In all of this, the key question arises, am I a loving person? Do I really love? We may think “hey I’m a pretty good guy…gee, I didn’t murder anyone today…I didn’t rob anyone…I’m a pretty loving guy….” Well, I guess that’s something. But how do we really know if we’re loving?
The other night while on retreat a good friend of mine gave a wonderful exhortation on love. He included the famous passage from First Corinthians Chapter 13. As he read through it, it caught me in a new way…beautiful, powerful, electrifying, and convicting. The passage reads:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1Cor. 13:1-7)
This a good examination of conscience. It’s really “all or nothing”….. either I love or I’m a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Wow, am I jealous, arrogant, rude, insisting on my own way, irritable, resentful ? Yikes sometimes I am ……. not all the time, but sometimes. “Boy, oh boy, oh boy. Hmmmmmmm…. what to do, what to do.”
Well if, like me, you find yourself convicted by a serious reading of this passage, don’t panic and jump off the nearest bridge. When we get convicted of sin, it’s actually a good thing, an action of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t convict us in order to condemn us; he convicts us so that we can change…so that we can repent, can turn away from sin. It’s really GOOD NEWS to be convicted.
In the power of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be patient and kind and not arrogant and rude and boastful. It’s more wonderful to love than to bang around as a GONG….bl,bla,bla…..BONG,BONG,BONG. We can learn to keep our mouth shut at the appropriate time, doing more listening when we’re tempted to boast. “Hey did I ever tell you the time I hit a home run when I was in first grade….. actually you did tell me about that…several times……”
To be upfront, I have to say that over the last few years I’ve been convicted a lot of “not loving.” Pride has a way of orchestrating this…. with the focus on ME…WHAT ABOUT ME. Yet I have to say that I’m excited because I know that the Lord is helping me to change. Maybe you haven’t noticed yet, but that’s okay, I know he’s at work.
I’m excited that “the Lord who has begun a good work in me (and you) will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.”(Phil 1:6) And that is very good news.