I love God. I love my husband. I love my children (and in-law children) and my grandchildren. I also love certain flavors of ice-cream, and vegetables, salads and soups, and fresh-baked rolls or bread.
I love some music, too, and particular kinds of art, and a walk in the park on a sunny, but not too hot a day. I love to listen to the giggles of my grandchildren and to watch their creativity at play with one another, too.
I love to hold a newborn baby in my arms, and the smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. And, I love Christian fellowship, and the body of Christ, and a cup of hot cider, and springtime, too.
But, can one word “love,” in the English language, define all of these?
But Not Have Love
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 1 Co. 13:1-3 NASB
The word translated in English as “love” here is really God-like love. It prefers what God prefers, i.e. it prefers (favors) holiness, righteousness, morality, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, kindness, humility, and selflessness. This love is also not necessarily based in the one being loved, but in the preference of the one doing the loving, i.e. we can even love our enemies when we love others with God-like (not human) love.
So, can we love all these things I mentioned above with this God-like love?
At first, I was going to say, “No,” that these are all different types of love, for I would not love ice-cream, for instance, in the same way in which I love my grandchildren, for example. But, if I have a preference for a dish of ice-cream on occasion, could that qualify for preferring what God prefers? Or, could I be preferring what God prefers while eating a dish of ice-cream?
Let’s look at it this way. God created us with these senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. He gave us all things to enjoy, but in the way in which he designed. He gave us colors, sunshine, trees, grass, flowers, water, rivers, critters, animals, sea creatures, sunrises, sunsets, and clouds, etc. He gave us food, and heat and cold. And, he gave us music, and art, and talents, and giggly little ones, and newborn babies, and seasons, too.
He made these for us, i.e. food, music, art, nature, sex, people, etc., and he gave us the five senses to use, so we can enjoy them. Nonetheless, if these things in themselves have become corrupt, or if we have used them in a corrupt manner, then we would not be preferring what God prefers, but we would be using these for our own selfish pleasures, and not in love.
Many things in themselves are not bad, especially if they come from God, but it is in how they are used which makes them bad or good, wrong or right, loving with God-like love, preferring what he prefers, or using them for our own selfish gain, to the disadvantage of others, and thus not loving.
Well, the same is true here with all these spiritual gifts which God has given to his church. They came from God, and they are to be utilized by us for his purposes, which are good purposes, and according to his design for them. And, many of these should bring joy to our hearts, and they should be for the good of others. So, when we exercise them, if in the process we are preferring what God prefers, which is the purpose for which all these were created, then they are being coupled with God-like love, so this is good!
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 with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Co. 13:4-7 NASB
This love, which prefers what God prefers, is patient. It waits on God’s timing, and it trusts in the Lord, even when it can’t see the light ahead at the end of a dark tunnel. It doesn’t run ahead of God, or lag behind him. It, too, is kind, which has to do with what is beneficial to another. Thus, lies are never kind. Withholding the truth, when needed, is also not kind. And, it is not envious of what others have that we don’t have, to the point where we feel resentment and even bitterness because we want what we don’t have.
This kind of love, as well, is humble, it is not prideful, and it doesn’t brag and boast about its accomplishments, i.e. it doesn’t take credit for what God has done through us. But, it will give all the glory and praise to God. It also does not behave in a deceitful, immoral, improper or indecent manner. So, don’t tell your spouse and God that you love them, and then cheat on them and lie to them. And, don’t get easily angered when confronted with your wrongdoing, either. For, this love is not selfish, but selfless, in other words.
This love, which prefers what God prefers for us, also does not keep an accounting of every offense for the purpose of trading tit-for-tat, i.e. to return insults for what one might consider insults, or to try to get even and seek revenge for every offense, or in order to hold on to the offense and thus to become bitter and resentful, as another way of making the other person pay.
Instead, it returns hate with love, and mistreatment with kindness, etc. Yet, it does not ignore sin or sinful patterns nor does it condone lies and deception, so it will speak the truth in love, when needed, and for the other person’s benefit.
And, this is because it doesn’t find joy and pleasure in unrighteousness, i.e. in evil, because it knows that evil (sin) hurts people, and it ruins people’s lives, their families, their marriages, and their other relationships, too. So, it rejoices in the truth, because it knows, too, that it is the truth which will set people free. True love seeks the freedom of others, and does not just pat them on the back or wink an eye at sin or allow for lies. And, true love doesn’t give up on people, either, but holds on to hope, and it endures.
Love Never Fails
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Co. 13:8-13 NASB
Human love, based in our flesh, will fail us. But, God-like love, which prefers what God prefers, will not fail, for it is centered in God and not in self. If we try to operate in our flesh, we are bound to fail, too. If we try to use our gifts in the flesh, they will also fail.
When we were children we did what was childish, and we thought a lot about ourselves. But, as we mature in Christ, we should put those childish ways of behaving behind us. We shouldn’t always be thinking about us and what we want, but we should be considering what will benefit others and how we can help others, and we should be looking out for their good, not for what is going to benefit us in our flesh. If we are using our gifts to puff up ourselves or so others will think how great we are, then we are missing the mark.
Not one of us has the corner on truth. We all see only what God allows us to see, and we don’t have the complete picture yet. He has given us many of the pieces to the puzzle, but it won’t all be complete until Jesus, who is perfect, returns for us, and then we will see what we could not see in these earthly bodies. So, we must be reminded that all that we have comes from God, and we would not have it if he did not give it to us, so we should never have reason to take pride in the gifts God gives to us. So, the gifts should never be our focus, but rather the Giver of the gifts should be our focus.
You’re rich in love
And You’re slow to anger
Your name is great
And Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons
For my heart to find
Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name
Saturday, February 10, 2018, 5:22 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this lesson from your Word. Bring it home to my heart, I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen!