Summary: The more excellent way
LOVE IS OF GOD
Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, once said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Why is love so terribly difficult for us sometimes? Aren’t we followers of a God who is Himself love? Surely there must be something we could be doing to encourage the love within us to grow and prosper and become what God intends it to be.
The Corinthian church was trying to compete through the possession of spiritual gifts. They had forgotten all about what Paul called a more excellent way. So what if they could speak in tongues? Without love it was just noise. Who cares if they could command mountains to move? If they lacked love they were just showing off. Not even the ultimate sacrifice of goods or possessions or even life itself meant anything if there was no motivation of love behind it.
We are useless nobodies gaining nothing if we are without love. Love is at the core of the Christian faith. God is love. For God so loved the world; the people and the world He created, not the world as it has become under the influence of evil. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us. 703 times in the New Testament the word love is used. It was Jesus’ primary teaching. We can’t rewrite our lives, we can’t fix others’ faults, and we certainly can’t force ourselves to get along. All we can do is demonstrate love and view others through the lens of love as God does.
What about those who hurt us? What about strangers? What about those who hate us? Jesus said even our enemies need our love. Anything less is not godly. You think God doesn’t love those who hurt Him, who ignore Him, who hate Him? God even shows kindness to the ungrateful and the evil. That’s what a love-centered life looks like. It looks like the care and the compassion of God.
Imagine if God was self-centered or egocentric. Would He sit back enjoying His creation that was empty of human beings because He wouldn’t have created us to be in relationship with Him? Or would He be amused watching us struggle, not caring to intervene? Would He have been content to let our sins rob us of our souls, never sending help?
There was nothing self-centered about God clothing Adam and Eve, nothing self-centered in the way He rescued the Israelites from Egypt or fed them in the wilderness for 40 years, nothing selfish about giving His Son in sacrifice for sin that was not His. Love is focused on others and how best to serve God through acts of love, care, compassion, sharing and sacrifice. And it’s not just toward those you chose to love or who will love you back. That’s pagan behavior, as Jesus pointed out.
Let us keep one thing in mind; that we are not going to look at other people but rather look within ourselves and ask whether we have love. A human life is only meaningful and worthwhile to the extent that it has love in it, and a life is nothing, is meaningless and worthless when it is without love. A life is worth as much as the love in it.
The only way we can produce the kind of love that models the love of God is by letting God work within us, work on us to make us into the kind of people who can both accept and give love. We cannot do this on our own. Our hearts are so bombarded by the evil in the world, our minds so bound by the value system in which we live. We don’t have to be overseas to be at war. Watch the news and you will see groups at war with each other every day, usually in the place where democracy supposedly begins.
Conservatives against liberals, workers versus corporations, rich versus poor, and on and on it goes. How can love survive a hate-filled environment such as that? And yet, according to Paul, love is the only thing that lasts. It never fails. In other words, it always works, because love is a gift of the Holy Spirit, just like faith and hope, but love is supreme. God’s love for us lasts for eternity. The love we can show to each other has no limits.
If it sounds like a love-centered life is more work than we bargained for, that’s probably true, but it’s not more than we are capable of with God’s help. When you’re trying to change the world you need something to fight with. Our weapon of choice is love; love for enemies, love for each other in a way that shows the world who we are, and that following Christ is not for wimps.