Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love: Part Nine

This is the ninth installment in our series on Love.

I was talking with a friend recently concerning this series of Bible studies. We talked about the placement of this chapter on love, in the book of 1st Corinthians. The chapter before it was dealing with spiritual gifts. The chapter after it was dealing with speaking with tongues, prophecy, and tongues and interpretation. The Spiritual gifts and their place in the body was a debated topic in that day as it is today. That debate I will leave for another day. Speaking in tongues and the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and interpretation were as well, also debated in the church in that day. That debate, also, will I leave for another day.

What is important to me in this study is the placement of a chapter on love in the middle of these debated topics. It is not that a chapter on love would not stand on its own merit anywhere in the Word, as it would. Love is a concept complex enough to be on its own anywhere in the Word. Paul, being fully aware of the situation at hand, and addressing the debate existing in the churches at Corinth, decided in the middle of this, to remind the Corinthians that love still had to rule the day.

It was ok to debate. It is permissible that we reason together. Paul, knowing that sometimes debates can become personal and get heated, reminded the Corinthians that we were to treat each other with love, even in the midst of a heated debate.

If we allow love to rule the day, we will not fail.

As stated previously, this chapter was not written to a couple about to be married. Even though we use it most often in the wedding ceremony, this chapter on love was written to the church. It was dealing with the love we, as children of God, should show to those within and without the faith.

Someone once told me that they didn’t think God cared about the small things in their lives. I beg to differ. If you really want to know it, you can read the Word, and you will find that God has something to say about practically everything we do. He says something about the way we eat. He says something about the way we dress. He says something about the way we work. He has something to say about the way we spend our money. He wants us to know how we are to treat our employer and our employees. He has opinions about how we treat our children and how we treat our parents. He tells us how we are to treat those of our family and how we are to treat strangers. God wants to be involved in every facet of your life. It is part of being filled with the Holy Ghost. God wants His Spirit to invade and pervade every aspect of our being.

This chapter in 1st Corinthians talks briefly about what God says about how we are to love. He does not make a difference in this chapter as to who we love, but how we love, everyone. Love is to be the same to our friends as to our enemies. The Word tells us that we are to love even those that use us spitefully. When the word talks about loving our enemies, it is still talking about that sacrificing love that we are to show our friends as well. When we return good (love) for evil, we heap coals of fire on the heads of our enemies. The Bible tells us that if we love only those that love us, we haven’t done much, because the wicked also love those that love them. We are to love, always.

  • Thinks no evil

When we think about this term, ‘thinks no evil’, we have to consider that there are several aspects involved. Firstly, we are to think no evil in the manner of revenge against a wrong encountered. Also, however, we are to impart no evil motive to the actions of others toward us.

Let me illustrate this somewhat by a story in the Old Testament. Samuel was instructed by God to go to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel. Once at the house of Jesse, Samuel told the family that he came to offer sacrifice. He called for Jesse and his sons to sanctify themselves and present themselves to him.

When the eldest, Eliab, stood before Samuel, in his heart He said, surely the Lords anointed stands before me. The Lord corrected Samuel in his spirit when he told him not to look on his countenance or the height of his stature. He told Samuel that He had not chosen him. God spoke further that He does not look as other men look. Man looks on the outward appearance. God looks on the heart.

We take into account the actions of those around us. We know people, not because we see into their hearts, but because of their actions. We judge instinctively. It is not even a conscious decision at times. When someone does something, we unconsciously assess a motive to the actions.

Isaiah tells us that Gods way are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. The reason that we cannot think like God is in part due to the fact that we cannot see the heart of the offender. Therefore, not being able to see the heart, we attach motives for the actions.

My theory, and feel free to disagree, is that most people see others through their own motives. The liar thinks that everyone is going to lie to them because it is what they would do. The thief thinks everyone is going to steal from them because it is what they would do.

When someone wrongs us, the evil in our own hearts shows us the evil that must be the motive for said actions.

But .. Love thinks no evil.

If we are governed by the love of God that is shed abroad in our heart, we will assess the motivation of love. We will see the actions through the eyes of love.

Remember, when we judge without mercy, we erase God’s mercy. When we choose to withhold forgiveness, we cause God to withhold forgiveness for our actions. There is a direct correlation to how we manifest the love of God and how the love of God is meted to us.

The Bible records the story of the two servants that were in debt.

The first servant owed a debt to his master. The amount of this debt was ten thousand talents. For the sake of understanding how insurmountable this debt was, we have figured the conversions. F we use the Roman talent as our source, it converts to approximately $3.4 million in US dollars. If we go with the Jewish silver talent, it converts to just over $7 million in today’s US Dollars. If we use the Jewish gold talent, it converts to $112.6 million in US dollars. Using these, it is easy to see that this servant owed a debt that he would never be able to repay. In as much as he could not repay this debt, his master ordered that he be sold, and his family, and all that he had, in an effort to repay the debt. The servant fell to his knees and worshipped the master and begged for patience and time to repay the debt. The master was moved with compassion and loosed him and forgave the debt. The balances were cleared.

This servant, upon leaving the hall of the master, where he had just been so graciously and magnanimously forgiven a staggering debt, encountered the second servant of this story. The second servant owed a debt to the first. The forgiven servant laid hands on the debtor and demanded payment of the one hundred pence he was owed. One hundred pence converts to about five dollars and forty cents. The second servant asked for patience in repaying this debt. The servant, of whom a vast debt was forgiven, refused to allow this. He cast the second servant into prison until he could repay the debt.

Fellow servant of these two men went to the master with the story. The master was irate. He cast the first servant into prison until he could pay all that was due of him. His unforgiving heart caused the forgiveness of the master to be withdrawn.

Jesus concluded the story by telling those following, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18.35)

When we think evil, by the evil in our own hearts, we open ourselves to be judged by that same standard. Paul tells us the when would go to do good, evil would be present. In the flesh is no good thing. We are all still in the flesh. Therefore, we will contend with the works of the flesh. Paul tells us that the good he would do, he did not. The evil that he would not, that he did. (Romans 7.19)

Any of us, in the moment, may acquiesce to the flesh. We must remain vigilant. We must make sure the love of God is pushed into the forefront whenever we deal with people. I assure you, if anyone can be pushed into doing the wrong thing, or saying the wrong thing, people will do that to you. Nothing will get under your skin faster than people.

A flat tire on your way to work will irritate you. It will make you angry. You will feel your ire rise within you. However, it is a tire. It is not a willful being. It did not go flat merely to upset you. It is harnessed by the laws of physics and probability. Excessive use will cause wear and erode the integrity of the tire. If you drive, you take the risk of running over any number of sharp objects that are the enemy of your inflated tire.

A blown light bulb will irritate you. It also, however, follows the laws of physics. A light bulb is a limited time use object. The more you use it, the less time is left before it will blow. That light bulb, that has served you so faithfully, every time you flipped the switch, will eventually create enough wear (heating up and cooling down stresses and wears the lighting element) that it will break. There will be an arc (flash) as it breaks and then darkness. It has not waited until the best part of the novel. It has not planned this precise moment to create the optimal irritation.

People, however, will try your love.

I recently heard a preacher say that everyone wants justice, until it comes to them. We want everyone to understand if we have a bad day and snap off a wrong or hurtful word at the worst possible moment. We want people to be patient when we are dragging in to work, tired and dirty from changing our tire, and they are there waiting with their problems. We want everyone to appreciate when we are grumpy because we haven’t had our morning coffee.

Yet, we don’t want to give that same understanding when the shoe is on the other foot. I remind you here, as I have and will, when we think the worst (think evil) of others; we invite justice in our lives.

The Word tells us that we were the just captives of the devil. David said he was conceived in sin. He was sharpened in iniquity. I was at a church service a while back and walked into a conversation. One of the conversers asked me if I thought we would ever be free of the desires of the flesh. I responded thusly; in this life, we will always contend with flesh until this corruption puts on incorruption. We will wrestle with our Adamic nature until this mortal puts on immortality.

You will war against your flesh all the days of your life. I don’t want to present our flesh as an unbeatable foe. We can have victory. We can persevere. We can be victorious. We can love and think no evil. We can allow the love of God to judge others. We can allow the love of God to buffer the actions of people. When we think in love, we are thought of in love.

A fathers love ..

The love we have for our children cause us to not only expect the best of them, but it causes us to apply the best motives to their actions. We want to believe the best of our children. I recall the story of a mother that was present at her son’s graduation from Army boot camp. As his platoon marched around the corner and past the viewing stand, she remarked, “Look at my son. He is the only one marching in the proper step.” The reality of the situation was that her son was the only one marching out of step, but her love refused to think that her son could be out of step.

Even when our children are disobedient, we still love them.

One of my daughters ran away from home when she was 16 years old. She was gone for three days. In those three days, Kaye and I only slept when exhaustion would force us to sleep. We wore ourselves out seeking her. Everything in our world stopped for those days. When she came home, she told me that she was afraid that I wouldn’t love her anymore.

I sat her down and explained this to her. “I will never ‘not love’ you. There is nothing you can do to change this. You may, and probably will make decisions in your life, of which, I will not agree. I may not always think you have made the right choice or done the right thing. However, there will never be a day when I will see you walking down the street that I will cross so that I don’t run into you. There will never be a day that I will not call you my daughter.”

This is the love that thinks no evil. Every sinner that you encounter is a disobedient creation of God. We share a common calling. We are both immersed in a common love. The love that God has for me is the same as the love He has for every sinner you will meet. They may have not made the right choices, but they are still loved by God. They may not be doing the right things, but still the love that held Him to the cross, calls for them.

Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs, that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. We like to think we are logical mind thinking beings, but we are far from it. We are a seething mass of emotions. We are governed by our emotions. We make decisions, not on how they look, but on how they feel. We think with our hearts more often than we think with our minds.

A preacher I heard many years ago (1984 .. I still have the cassette) talked about a time in his life when he was dealing with turmoil. His mind was pulling in one direction and his heart was tugging in another. He stated that he thought he was losing his mind. He broke down and went to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told him when the heart and the mind agree, there is harmony in our lives. However, when the heart and mind are at opposition to each other, the result is turmoil. The preacher asked the doctor, to which should he listen. This psychiatrist, this learned doctor of the mind, told him to listen to his heart.

We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. It should be the governor of our actions. More than that, it will be the governor of our actions. We will act according to the dictates of our heart. The real man resides in the heart.

The servant, forgiven of much debt, revealed his heart when he took the owing servant by the neck and cast him into prison for the smaller debt. The evil in his heart prevailed.

David was a man after God’s own heart. Yes, he made mistakes. Yes, he failed at times. Yes, he listened to his flesh at times. However, there was a heart beating in his chest that had characteristics like God.

We must have the love of God in our hearts to purge the evil within it.

This week, I heard a preacher say, “Love is the irreducible minimum of following Christ.” What did he mean? He meant, as a child of God, as a follower of Christ, the smallest part, the one thing that cannot be reduced any farther, is love. If we are a child of God, we will have love.

As we are learning together in this series of studies, love is a complex simple word. Mankind throws it around as if it is nothing. We treat it as if it were a shiny bauble we found in the snow, but it is a treasure of incalculable value. It is the first of the fruits and the basis of all the others. It is the beginning of service and the foundation of a life in God. It is the governor of our actions. It is the ruler of our thoughts.

It is the one thing capable of purging the evil from our hearts.

Love thinks no evil.

Next: Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.

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