Sunday, January 30, 2011

But if we have not love, we have nothing.

What is grace, but God showing His incredible love for us?
I think about His love and it changes my heart, my mind, my thoughts, my actions, my life.

I am the kind of person that focuses on the knowledge. I love knowing. I love memorizing. I love being able to figure out historical and theological points in Scripture, and knowing how to answer questions from Scripture. I love putting pieces of a puzzle together. I like having things organized in my mind and feeling like something is accomplished.

Lately, though, in my walk with grace, I remember that this is not everything. This is really not anything. And I felt a tug recently to open up to 1 Corinthians 13. A must-read passage, one that I often think of as cliche and corny.
..until I looked again.

[The Way of Love]
    [13:1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] 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. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Pause.  What? What? Let me get this straight. I can be filled with every knowledge of the Bible. I can know theology inside and out. I could have every single verse memorized to spout off in any occasion. I could even have enough faith to trust the Lord in EVERY situation, never question Him, never worry about anything, and even move mountains. In fact, I could even be murdered for my faith. But if none of that is rooted in a love of Christ that reaches out to others, it means nothing.

...... Can we just stop and think about that for a second??
I tend to think that my Christian walk is going okay when I am truly studying the Word, truly living in faith. When I trust the Lord. This passage is telling me that no, that means nothing if it is not backed by a sincere love. And this, my friends, is where I can struggle. I so often do not show love very well.

So, thank goodness the passage continues to show what love is:
    [4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
How does Alicia fail? Oh let me count the ways...
But seriously. I am probably one of the least patient people at times. I can be incredibly irritable when I am in stressful situations, and it shows to everyone around me. I try to be kind, and I try not to be arrogant or rude, to envy or boast, but there are times when this sinful side of me comes up. I can envy others' friendships or even their faith. I can even let that envy lead to bitterness and resentfulness (failure, according to this passage!).
This is not love. And as the Bible says, this must show the abundance of my heart. My sinful nature. That the Holy Spirit has so much work to do in me yet.

What is love SUPPOSED to do? Bear, believe, hope, endure. Bear all the pain of my situation, believe that the Lord is working in others lives as well as mine, hope for the future salvation and sanctification, and endure because Christ endured.

And to sum it up....
    [8] Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
    [13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

Knowledge will pass away. All these things that man finds such power and strength in, find comfort in - they will be gone. But love? Love will stay. Christ's love. The love we show to others in showing them the gospel. The love of the Kingdom.

This is where my grace needs to lead me this year.


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