Teach us to Love

http://bible.com/116/1co.13.1-7.nlt If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Is it just me? This reminds me of how little I look like Christ. In fact this whole book reminds me of how little I look like Christ.

I lost my patience several times today. Even with my daughter,  who I love dearly and who is sick and doesn’t feel well. I just couldn’t handle the whining and everything that comes with a nauseous child and multiple nights of almost no sleep. My patience wears thin at times.

I have people who only want to call me when they want something from me. People who don’t want to be my friend, they just want to talk me into giving them money or food or help or whatever,  when they aren’t willing to do for themselves, when they have absolutely no self discipline and they’ve gotten themselves in a jam because of bad choices. And they want me to bail them out of their consequences. My kindness has its limits.

And when I see people that I care about facing sickness and pain and suffering. When I see Christians being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. When I see the world around me mocking and twisting the Word of God. When I see people calling themselves Christians but attacking each other with venomous words. When I see so much hatred and evil and darkness in the world around me that I feel somehow infected by it even when I don’t want to be conformed to its ways.

It can be maddening to look at who I should be versus who I see my past mistakes reflecting. I think about how many times my parents have been patient with me, helped me out of holes that I got myself into,  and I’m humbled by their example of Christ in how they raised me. I’m almost jealous of how much better of a parent I feel they were than I fear that I am being for my daughter.

And irritable? I really try. I want to be like Christ. I want to see each day as a blessing. I want to love people. But I’m going to be honest here – sometimes life is a struggle. Sometimes everything that I touch breaks in my hands. Sometimes I fail time after time, just trying to accomplish the simple tasks of day to day life. And I see others succeeding around me, and yes,  I am discouraged. Not because I want them to have a struggle and a trial,  but because I’m frustrated that I have forgotten that I should remember the blessings.

Well, you know what? Sometimes it is just flat out tough. Sometimes it is difficult to not keep score,  because we want to protect ourselves from getting hurt,  over and over and over again. We don’t want to seem foolish for letting others continue to take advantage of us. Because a soft heart is a target. A soft heart gets hurt often and deeply. And those wounds don’t always heal quickly.

I know the wounds from being soft hearted. They hurt,  they aren’t comfortable. In fact, it worries me that at times I look and find myself to not be as kind and gentle and forgiving as I once was. As I seek to learn more and apply more self discipline within my own life, it is harder to overlook the evils of this world. As I pull the log from my own eye, it is harder not to notice the speck in another’s eye. But mainly,  there is so much more that I see in myself that needs to change. As I start to see more clearly,  I see how much of a mess I have made of this life. I see how much of a stumbling block I have been, and fear that I am even now.

I’m crushed by my inability to demonstrate effectively the Christ who lives inside of me. I’m discouraged by the damage I have done to my own testimony by the evidence of my broken past. How do I clean up 39 years of mess and bad habits and lack of self discipline? You see, I turned 41 just a week and a half ago. And my life was forever changed just 16 months ago,  when the Lord touched my life in a way that changed everything. And I know that I am a Child of God.

I’ll say it again,  I KNOW that I am a Child of the Most High.

I will not be shaken.

If I am to be moved,  I will be moved by the Holy Spirit.

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t face trials. That doesn’t mean that I won’t see struggle. In fact,  in my experience,  it is when I am making progress towards new Kingdom goals,  when I am walking closer to God’s will and purpose for my life – or is then that I find the struggle can prove toughest, it is then that my heart feels the pain of the arrows of the enemy of I am not wearing my full armor.

Why do I find myself fighting without my armor? Why do I find myself encountering the battle scars instead of handing over the battle to Christ?

You see,  I’m a thinker. I try to understand with my mind, when I just need to let Christ rule in my heart.

If Christ only had my thoughts, if He is just a religious idea, then I am doing nothing more than practicing at the law – and the law is a curse. Because if we measure ourselves by the law,  we will not only fall short,  but we will be tempted to measure others and measure this world around us, and we will know the darkness that surrounds us.

But when Christ rules my life through my heart, I am renewed,  I am healed. I am pushed to soar in love,  mercy,  forgiveness and grace. And I realize that there is no condemnation for me. And I realize that I can do this,  because through Christ all things are possible. But victory comes in Christ Jesus. I find victory when He is in my heart.

So what about those times when it just doesn’t feel like my heart is where it once was? What about those times where I fear that my heart is becoming hardened by the many battle scars of hurt and pain and suffering?

Didn’t he bear the cross for us? Didn’t he receive the stripes for our sake? Doesn’t He tell us to pick up our cross and follow Him?

We’re we so foolish as to think that He wasn’t serious,  my friends, when He told us what it takes to be His disciple? Do we not see the examples of the martyred disciples and know what a life surrendered and following Christ looks like?

Many will say,  how foolish – we should eat,  drink,  and be merry. Why sacrifice and be disciplined when we have called upon the name of the Lord – He is a merciful God. Maybe they don’t believe in God at all, maybe they have no fear of God at all. And many folks said the same thing up to the very moment that the rains of the first flood came down.  And it wasn’t until they were trapped outside and it was too late that they understood the foolishness of their own mocking words.

You see,  there is wisdom to be found in the fear of God. Sometimes I need to be reminded that even though I am bought by His grace,  that my faith is counted as righteousness, that it will be proven by my life sacrifice surrendered to His will.

And the yielding of our own will to submit ourselves to His will – it is either tested and proven in the fiery trials of this life as the old is burned away and the new is refined and renewed – or it will be demonstrated by the eternal fires that burn away toys things useless under the final judgement. We aren’t facing water again, as He promised,  that judgement has passed,  and we are reminded by the rainbow, the very sign of His covenant. We will know the fire that burns inside us,  changing us and refining us,  and convicting us,  and teaching us,  and leading us to a repentant and obedient life – or we will encounter the fire later. It is our choice.

So I don’t have to see perfection in my life. But I had better see the fire burning away the old me. And it should result in a life not of hardened judgement and measurement as a practice of the law, but a loving life with Christ ruling in our hearts, so that His love overflows our cup and spills out onto others.

If we are not overflowing with love,  if we are encountering trials, whatever season the Lord is carrying us through – let’s press on, friends. Let’s know the fire inside that is burning away the old and making new. Let’s not set our sights on the past,  or even upon things of this world, but let’s set our sights upon Christ,  upon His example – and not so that we might be discouraged,  but so that we might be humbled – that He promises that we will become more like our teacher.

We claim you, Holy Spirit, Christ who lives in us,  as our teacher. Guide us and lead us in your way. Show us the narrow path of a life surrendered. Lead us through the narrow gate of the Truth of Jesus Christ,  of God come in the flesh to live amongst us. Soften our hearts and heal our wounds. Overflow our cups with the living waters that nourish our souls. Fill our branches with the fruits of your Holy Spirit that are to be shared with your flock. Send us or as messengers of this Good News of your grace and mercy and love and forgiveness extended to a world separated from your presence. Use us as the salt and the light in this world of darkness and lost souls, let our lives be a living praise to your name,  bringing you honor and glory. And let us gather with our brothers and sisters by the still waters, let us lie down in the green pastures of spiritual peace, even as your fire burns away and purifies us through the trials of this life. We love you,  Lord. Teach us to love.


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