… provoking you towards love.
We know that love is important, but do we understand just how important it is? The whole Bible is God’s love-letter to us, and one of its clearest descriptions of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This passage is read at many weddings, even weddings where faith plays a minor role, because we all recognise that what these verses express about love, is wonderful and true.
Can you imagine a clearer, richer or fuller description of love than this?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NIV)
Do these words provoke a yearning within you — a yearning to experience love like this, as well as a yearning to be able to love like this? The only person to ever embody such love is Jesus. If you know him, you will appreciate the perfection of his love, such that we can happily replace the word “love” in these verses with “Jesus”, knowing that these words describe him:
Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not dishonour others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The apostle Paul starts 1 Corinthians 13 by describing the consequences of using the abilities that God gives to us, in an unloving way:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3 NIV)
Paul invites us to consider the tragedy of being the most gifted person that we can imagine, who in the end achieves nothing, because they act without love. He exaggerates to make his point: it is not just prophesy, but prophesy that “can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge”; it is not just faith, but “faith that can move mountains”; it is not just the ability to give generously, but the ability to “give all I possess to the poor”.
This is where I want to provoke you. I want to encourage you to write your own version of the examples he uses here, by using the same construction as he did, which goes like this:
“If I [insert the very best, most successful expression of my ability / gift that I can think of], but do not have love, I achieve nothing.”
Here is my version, to show you what I mean:
“If I write captivating, compelling and inspiring words, and can explain all truth in a way that transforms hearts and minds, but do not have love, I achieve nothing.”
Making this thought so personal, causes me to stop and think. Can you sense the tragedy of it — the waste? It provokes me towards love. What ability would you want to place here, and how would you express your wildest dreams of success? Dwell with this thought for a while.
Learning to Love
Does this feel like a wakeup call to you? It does to me.
When I consider how far short I fall of this standard of love, and the consequences of acting without love, I realise how much I need to learn to truly love. It makes we wonder if the main reason we are put on this earth is to learn to love.
Love such as this seems super-human, and indeed it is; such love can only come from the God who is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus is the only person to ever fully love like this. So can we learn to love like Jesus? The Bible says that we can. First of all, we need to understand that:
… God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5 NIV)
For those who trust in Jesus, who aim to follow him and who are born again by the Spirit, there is this promise — “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts”. The picture here is of abundant provision. God has not put a drop of his love into your heart as if he were administering medicine from an eye dropper. No, he has gushed his love into your heart as from a fire hose. His love is in our hearts in abundance, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us. This love is a fruit of the Spirit, and like all fruit, it grows slowly.
So how can we help this fruit grow? God’s love grows in us as we increasingly understand how much he loves us:
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NIV)
This is so important! Everything comes from the fact that God loved us first; even when you were his enemy; even before you were born; even before the foundation of the world; God loved you. God’s grace, his plan of salvation, the eternal life he has given to you, come from his amazing love. Understanding this is so important that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about it:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17–19 NIV)
Dear reader, I pray this for you, as I pray it for myself.
Your life needs to be rooted and established in God’s love. God’s love is the soil that holds you and sustains you. The most important thing that you need to know is how much God loves you. The more we understand God’s love, the deeper our roots will be, and ultimately the more fruit we will bear, especially the fruit of love.
Being rooted and established in love means that we will be confident in God’s love. Being confident in his love is easy, when times are good. Our confidence is tested in the hard times; that is when we find out just how rooted and established in love we are. When trials come, as they will, our understanding of God’s love will hold us fast and enable us to keep loving.
Have I provoked you towards love? Are you ready to put the fruit of love at the top of your prayer list? Are you determined to be a life-long learner in love? The more you make love your aim, the more that people will see Christ in you.
Guest Author | David Knott
Originally published on: Medium