Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT
The verbs here are:
Be. Stand. Be. Be. Do.
Passive. Active. Passive. Passive. Active.
Then the instructions:
On guard. Firm in the faith. Courageous. Strong. Everything with love.
So in our essence we are to BE on guard, courageous, and strong. I matt be jumping ahead by saying this, but these are things that come from the holy spirit and not from ourselves. We aren’t to pretend or act guarded (as if we are guarded) but we are to BE on guard. We aren’t to put on a show for others and act courageous (as if we aren’t actually courageous) but we are to BE courageous. We aren’t too make a vain effort to prove to others that we are strong (as if we aren’t actually strong) but we are to BE strong.
I’m sure that many of us are familiar with people trying to overcompensate in life in order to hide their shortcomings — and I’m sure if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that we have been prone to do this ourselves as well. In unstable and unhealthy lives, what is put on display most prominently (portrayed as being courageous and strong) is actually the area of life where the mask hides and guards what is real underneath from being seen. This is NOT what this verse is talking about. It doesn’t say “strive to be seen as” or “be sure people think you are” or anything like that — it instructs with a passive verb “to be”. And if we “are” truly at our core those things, it is because God has made us so — and if we “are not” it is because God has made us so. If we need a change to our “being”, striving is just hiding — so we must rely on God to be the one acting to change these or we are just pretending, lying, and putting on a show.
We are called to activity — stand firm in our faith, and do everything in love. So when we stand — we do this in faith. When we wait (because there are no actions we can take that are living and that will help) — we do this in faith. And when we do (when we are active) — we do everything in love. If what we might do is not going to help and isn’t in love — we should stand, we should wait, firm in faith. But when there is a need, we should act, we should do — and every time and with every thing it should be in love.
If this seems like an impossibly tall place to set the bar for us to follow, it might be because you are looking at this as a law for us to measure up to — a way for us to act enough the part as to prove that we are worthy of being considered worthy. But this is completely the wrong perspective.
“BE”-ing proceeds ACTION. And “ACTING” is NOT the same as “BEING”.
This is The Way. It is not “of ourselves” that gains us the reward. It is the free gift of God that changes us at our very BEING and that will be revealed genuinely and transparently to the world — in our waiting in faith and acting in love.
And if we can’t take credit for ourselves, how much less can we judge and demand of others?
Lord, change our hearts. Do not let us put on a show of pretense in order to entertain or satisfy others — or in order to inflate our own egos. If we ARE NOT what we should be, humble us so that we might surrender those areas to your healing hands. If WE ARE what we should be — guide us by your holy spirit to wait when we should wait, pray what we should pray, say what we should say, and do what we should do — all in love. Amen.