1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV
Matthew 19:26 ESV
Psalm 50:10 (cattle on a thousand hills are mine)
Defining love in our world today can be problematic. I think that’s because various cultures and faiths have different ways of defining and practicing love. Because of that we don’t have a clear focus on what it means to love and show love to others.
Scripture tells us what God gives us and wants us to share with the world.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 tells us, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
Even though I committed that scripture to memory years ago, it’s still not easy to give that kind of love in our world.
I would even say it’s impossible or improbable.
In Matthew 19:26 Jesus had been speaking to a man described as a rich young man. The man wanted to know how to enter the kingdom of heaven and Jesus told him to sell his possessions and follow him. The man walked away. So His disciples asked Jesus how any one can be saved, “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
It was impossible because the rich young man could not let go of his earthly wealth and possessions.
The kind of love that the Apostle Paul wrote about later is not an easy thing to do. When I consider even the first words written in I Corinthians 13:4, I struggle with it.
Love is patient. That means when someone is rude or mean, I need to strive to return their rudeness with the kind of love that is patient.
In theory, I can do that, but it’s much more difficult to do in practice. Let’s say I’m tired and I’ve not had a good day. I had several errands to do. I’m at my last stop and there is a long line at the store. I’m trying to be patient, but all of a sudden someone cuts in front of me in line. In that moment I’m not feeling loving toward that person. My patience is almost non-existent.
I don’t think it’s fair that he cut in line and I really want to tell him to go to the back of the line. My sense of fair-play has kicked in. After all I learned even in kindergarten it’s not fair to cut in line in front of someone.
Everyone knows the rule…well, everyone except this rude guy.
I want to tell him reasonably and yet clearly that we are all tired and the line is long but he needs to go to the back of the line. In that moment I really think he needs to follow the rules. After all, society has rules.
More than likely I’m not thinking that love is patient. I’m not thinking about loving this guy.
I take a deep breath and I pray, asking God to make the man realize he’s wrong. Then I remember the love is patient bit. I don’t think I remember it on my own…I think God is reminding me that ‘love is patient’.
In that moment I have to make a decision. I have to intentionally decide to listen to God or to listen to the voice in my head that is telling me what I learned in kindergarten about not cutting in line.
I tell God I don’t feel like being patient.
Then I remember the story about the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:26. The rich man wanted to follow Jesus but he didn’t want to change his life so he could follow. He wanted what he wanted and he didn’t want to change.
So I’ve written before about the I wanna wanna wanna give my attitude to God, when I need help giving it to God. In that moment (tired as I am) I need to tell God I wanna wanna wanna be patient and love this man.
I can’t do it on my own, but I have to be willing to let God help me. Remember, God doesn’t force His way in. First we have to want to ask God for help and we have to want God to help us. Then we want to ask God to give us patience. Then we ask God to give us love for this man. I wanna wanna wanna.
All of that is impossible for me to do on my own because I was taught not to cut in line in front of people. But with God’s help loving this man and being patient with him IS possible.
That’s because God’s love for us is kind. God’s love does not envy. God’s love is not rude and His love isn’t selfish.
God’s love is not resentful.
Sooo I ask God to help me, give me patience, and to give me love for this man. When I ask that, God blesses me with an extra measure of His blessing.
Suddenly I’m no longer tired.
The Spirit refreshes me as I wait.
I realize that God is showing me that this man is carrying a great burden for his wife. He needs to get home to help her. God doesn’t always show me the actual reason, but He often shows me there IS a reason that I need to pray for someone.
Love is patient. God’s love is patient. God is patient with me.
Love is kind. God’s love is kind. God is kind to me. God is ever so generously kind to me.
And…God smiles because I trusted Him to help me as I wait in line.
The sad, really sad part about the rich man who walked away from Jesus is that if he would have stayed God would have given him something a million times more valuable than money.
God would have helped him all the days of his life deal with every struggle and problem he faced. God would have provided everything he needs.
After all, Psalm 50:10 reminds us that God says the cattle on a thousand hills are mine. God’s resources are limitless.
We simply need to turn to God.
Spiritual Practice: Turn and Release
Turn to God and Let go of what you are struggling with…let go. If you are struggling to let go, you can tell God you wanna wanna wanna let go and God will help you to let go.
In God, Deborah