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Jul 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2010

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

INTRO: Those of us who started Reflexion were drawn together by a shared vision and passion

  • Vision: That “spiritual journey” is a useful analogy to describe our life in Jesus
  • Passon: Our desire to make continued progress in this journey, to move deeper into God and travel further in fulfilling his will

What does progress in the spiritual journey look like?
This is an important question and there are two ways that we easily get side-tracked:

  1. When we have as the goal of our journey to become knowledgeable
    – Jesus acknowledged that his contemporaries searched the Scriptures, “but,” he told them, “I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves” (Jn. 5:42)
    Paul has already warned the Corinthians regarding the limitations of knowledge (see 1 Co. 8:1)
    – it can puff up (inflate the ego, ones sense of control, etc.) without building up
  2. When we have as the goal of our journey to become rigidly moral
    – the heart of God’s revelation is not moral, it’s relational
    – if the commandments were primarily moral, how could they all be fulfilled in the two commandments to love God and to love ones neighbor? (Mt. 22:35-40; Ro. 13:8-10)

In the passage above, Paul shows us what the spiritual journey looks like
 – he began by emphasizing the indispensable role of love (vv. 1-3)
 – now he gives us a close look at love in action

These verses do not constitute a definition of love!
Don’t make it that mistake

  • Our tendency is to begin with definitions
    – “How can I do what’s expected of me if I don’t know first know it?”
    – the problem is that much of what we learn is relegated to the life of the mind
  • Paul was more concerned with the “life of limbs”–the being and doing of a believer’s life
    – His concern: When love is present, how does it behave? What does it do?

Notice how Paul personifies love – how does this help us?

  1. One of the most natural ways that humans learn is by analogy (e.g., Jesus’ use of parables)
  2. Love is exclusive to persons (I-Thou)
  3. If we love lives in us, “she” will influence us by her example

Two Positives

Love is patient – restrains passion for a long time

  • First, “long” is an indefinite period of time
    – patience can reach a point of absurdity (must act in self-defense)
  • What is important for us to consider:
    – Paul saw passion as something that is within us and is under our control
    – brain research has discovered how emotions rise and how meditation can help to intervene (How God Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman)
    – A soul that is centered in God’s presence has greater awareness of what goes on within it
    – Contemplative prayer helps us to observe our impatience (emotional reactions) as they rise, to let them go, and then return our attention to God and his grace in the present moment

Love is kind – we have an entire range of potential responses to the behavior of other people
 – strong emotion tends to narrow the range of our responses (we lose sight of the big picture)
 – love chooses a kind response

Eight Negatives (and we will skim through these)

Is not jealous – Compare 12:31, where the same Greek word is used
 – a life that is not at mercy of its emotions

Love does not brag

Is not arrogant (“puffed up,” as in 8:1)

Does not act unbecomingly – this word appears only twice in the New Testament (see 7:36)
 – rude is sometimes offered as the best translation, but that would not make as much sense in the other passage
 – “contrary to good (or proper) form,” perhaps “make a scene”

Does not seek its own

Is not provoked – the Greek word translated “provoked” is the source of our word paroxysm, a spasm or seizure
 – annoyed, irritated
 – people aren’t an annoying interruption if they are your ministry and calling

Does not take into account a wrong – count up grievances
David Allen, in his book Contemplation, tells a story of a  woman who “brought me a little black book in which her husband detailed everything she had done wrong over the past three years.”
 – when she discovered that all of her mistakes and failures were being recorded, she had a nervous breakdown

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness – finds no joy in wickedness

Five More Positives

Rejoices with the truth

Bears all thingsbear translates the verb form of an old Greek word for “roof”–love covers for others

Believes all things – believes all the best things about a person, and believes in spite of obstacles
 – this had to been a characteristic of Jesus’ love for his disciples
 – regardless of all their failures, he believed what he saw in them (e.g., Peter the “Rock”) and entrusted to them the keys of his kingdom

Hopes all things – doesn’t “lose heart” (2 Co. 4:1 & 16); love hangs on to hope

Endures all things

Love and Transformation

  • Love transforms the way we see people and situations
     – a beautiful example of this in the Hebrew Scriptures

Jacob’s perspective of time was transformed by love:
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. (Ge. 29:20)

  • But love can also result from a transformation in the way we see people and situations
     – the movie, “Shallow Hal”
    How did Jesus see the people around his cross?
     – ignorant children, orphaned from their Father and this is what explained their actions
     – seeing them in this way drew from his heart a prayer for them rather than a curse
  • Love trains us to look out at the world through the eyes of Jesus

How to Use This List

Paul is not telling us we have to have these attributes, attitudes or put these actions into practice
 – he is simply saying that love is all of  these things
 – so we can use the list

  • to test if what we think, feel and do is love
  • to measure our progress in love and, therefore, in God
    – Are we growing in love? Are we getting anywhere?
  • to further our progress in the spiritual journey through contemplative prayer
    Hold your attention on each item on the list without analyzing it, but allow its meaning to unfold
    See if that item can find its reflection in your soul
    Allow it reveal your short-comings and failures
    With the new awareness you now have, present yourself to God exactly as you are

Perhaps the best thing that could happen to us is to read this list and come to the realization, “My love is nothing” or
“My love fails at this point . . . and this . . . and this”
 – but don’t immediately jump into fresh commitments, or making reminders for yourself , or trying harder
 – as Fr. Romuald observed, “It’s useful for humility to sit in failure. It’s more helpful than success toward achieving humility.”

Here’s the life-transforming point that I’m getting at: God is the Potter, we are the clay
 – God is working this love into us
 – if we can sit before God in prayer, surrendering ourselves to his work within us, and then turn our attention on his love, it will re-create itself in us
“We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19)

We will certainly find within ourselves thoughts, attitudes, and feelings that reveal an absence or failure of love
 – but precisel at the point where we acknowledge that failure to God, he steps in
 – Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”

Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with dificulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Co. 12:7-10)

Think of it! Your weakness is a door through which God’s power can enter and move through your heart, mind, and soul

CONC: When I got up this morning and settled into prayer, I realized how I am affected by overcast skies
A bright sun in a clear blue sky announces,

“Something is happening and there’s enough light to see it!
Don’t waste this wonderful daylight.
Get up and get involved in the day. Don’t miss its beauty”

But waking up to a dreary gray world, I hear,

“Go back to sleep, it’s still dark outside.
You’re not supposed to be awake yet.
There’s nothing to see here, nothing important.
Just stay in bed.”

Even if I push myself off the bed and into my routine, my mind is sluggish and my soul is still asleep
 – it isn’t that I feel sad or that I do not feel happy, but that I don’t feel!
 – what’s the point in getting up and moving around? I’m not going to drive away the marine layer or coax the sun out

While reading this morning, I was struck by a theme in Elihu’s speech in Job chapter 33 (my reading included 2 Corinthians 12)
 – Elihu painted a vivid scene that revolved around “the abyss” (Job 33:15-30, New Jerusalem Bible)
– I won’t burden you with everything I jotted down, but here are a couple thoughts that occurred to me:

I think depressed people, because they have given up on themselves, hope for a Savior and to be saved. It is this very sense of need for help that can make them such a drain on others. Depression is a black hole–the abyss. So the thought of a Mediator showing up (in the nick of time, Job 33:23), taking pity on the lost soul, interceding for it, and providing a ransom is truly wonderful news to the depressed person standing on the edge of the precipice (Job 33:24). The sunlight, then, that breaks through the gloom is salvation, hope, the face of Jesus (vv. 28 & 30).

I wonder, would we appreciate the summit of Zion as much if we did not know the depth of the abyss? The sun-drenched sky, if there were no overcast? Life, if there were no lifeless moments of meaninglessness?

Love is the sunshine that you and I bring to each new day, the artificial light, that proves to be the true light and drives the clouds away from our hearts and the hearts of others. Love is God’s sunlight that we bring to the world.

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