Several years ago I was attending the Catalyst conference. Bob Goff was one of the speakers. When he finished his part, he gave each of us a copy of his book “Love Does”. It’s a collection of stories from his life where he decided to love people and say yes to their requests. It turns out when you look at each interaction as God opening a door for you, you’ll live an adventurous life. Because God loves people, Bob loves people. In this book he shares some incredible ways he has shown love to others and the impact it has had on them. I laughed out loud throughout the book. I also was brought to tears several times. Most importantly, it challenged me to dig deeper to find ways to show love.
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 read. However, Paul didn’t write that chapter for married couples. He wrote it to believers on the importance of loving your neighbor in the context of spiritual gifts. Verse 1 reads, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]” (AMP). God has given each of us spiritual gifts to edify and to love. Our world needs us to love them the way God loves them. Instead we’re guilty of seeing our differences and allowing those to divide us. We need to remember verse 5. It says, “It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.” Loving others God’s way looks like this.
In John 13:34, Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.” The word for love that Jesus and Paul used in these is agape. This word isn’t referring to a love based out of emotion. It a love that does things for the benefit of another person while seeking the best for them regardless of you you feel. That’s the kind of love God calls you and I to. If we can’t or won’t love others extraordinarily with that kind of love, Paul said our lives will sound like a clanging cymbal causing a distraction rather than a sweet sound that brings music to people’s ears. Jesus didn’t ask us to live this way. He commanded it. There’s a difference there, and if we want to make a difference, it starts with living a life of love.
When we think of the story of Joseph and Mary, it’s usually not at Valentine’s Day. They’ve got Christmas and that’s about all we give them. However, when I think of love stories in the Bible, theirs always comes to mind. Theirs wasn’t a fairy tale love, it was real. It showed that love endures hard times and difficult situations. We don’t know a lot about their story, but the parts that we do know show that their love survived what could have been a disastrous occasion.
Imagine being engaged to someone and then you seemingly found proof that they were cheating on you. What happens next? For most of us, we make a public scene and try as hard as we can to embarrass the other person because we want them to hurt as bad as we do. Joseph didn’t have that same attitude when he found out that Mary was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his because they planned to be virgins until their wedding. Instead of blowing up and taking out his hurt on her, he let love lead the way.
In Matthew 1:19, we read, “Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.” In the Message Bible, one of the ways it describes love in I Corinthians 13 is, “Love doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.” Joseph demonstrated this kind of love towards Mary. He didn’t act the way he could have acted because he truly loved her and acted out of love even when he was hurt.
A love that endures doesn’t fly off the handle when it thinks it’s been wronged. It follows what we read in I Corinthians 13. It acts selflessly and always look for the best in others. We shouldn’t be so quick to fly off the handle at those we love. We should be extending them the grace we expect. We can learn a lot from a young couple who had the biggest responsibility and pressures of any parents ever. They had a love that lasted because they understood how to act out of love when things got difficult. It’s a great example that we should follow.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
To me, one of the scriptures taken out of context the most is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. It’s been used in nearly every Christian wedding, hung on the walls of our homes and quoted to people in Love about how they should love their spouse. The truth is that it has nothing to do with loving our spouse. It’s about loving people with God’s love that’s in us in order to point them to him. We can do all sorts of things for people that bring us glory, but if we don’t love them in a way that points to Him, it’s pointless.
The last verse in the chapter is probably the most recognized one, but I want to look at it in the Amplified version which adds context to the original meaning. It says, “And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” I believe love, in this context, is the greatest because love of this sort offers God’s grace and makes us more like Him.
The first verse in the next chapter continues Paul’s thoughts on the matter. It says, “Pursue [this] love [with eagerness, make it your goal].” That kind of love isn’t natural for most of us. It’s something we’re going to have to desire to have, and we’re going to have to pursue it. It’s going to require us to pray for it and to put it into practice in our lives until it becomes a part of who we are. To have unselfish love for others should be the goal of every one of us, especially since Jesus said we would be known for our love for one another.
Today, think about what that love likes like coming from you. What can you do to show someone God’s love? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that goes viral on social media. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a prayer for a friend in need, a purchased cup of coffee for the person in line behind you, a warm meal for a homeless person, or a call to someone feeling lonely. These unselfish acts of love don’t have to change the world, but if we do enough of them out of God’s love for us, it just might.