Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love: Part Eleven (Summary)

Next we begin to see the summary of what the writer is telling us about love. He has lain out specifics and very clear imagery for us to understand better the nature and works of love. Now, he takes all of these and balls them into this tight summary. All of the things we have seen and heard about love to this point can be placed into categories falling under the next four statements made about love. I will go farther and say that they can be brought into two sets of summaries. I will try to keep them condensed in this eleventh installment in this series.

  • Bears all things and endures all things

Love bears all things. It does not crumble or buckle under the weight of humanities doubts or reason. Logic cannot break it.

There used to be a game sold called “The Last Straw.” It featured a camel that had two baskets linked across its back. The object of the game was to add straws one at a time per player until the ‘last straw’ broke the camel’s back. When enough straws produced enough weight to collapse the camel and the humps touched, the player adding the last straw was eliminated.

Love does not break under the load. Love bears all things.

Under the Law of the Old Testament, there was ‘an eye for an eye’ remuneration. If someone stole your lamb, they owed you a lamb. If someone destroyed your crop, they owed you a crop. This went even as far as a life for a life. If a person killed someone unintentionally by accident, the family of the slain had a right to take the life of that person. There were cities of refuge to which one could flee for sanctuary. Inside a City of Refuge, the accused was safe from the revenge of the family as long as the judge of the city lived and as long as they stayed within the limits of the city.

That was the old law. That was the way then. Now, Paul tells us that we have something new. We have a new covenant. This new covenant is not inscribed on tables of stone. It is written in the fleshly tables of the heart. (2nd Corinthians 3.3) There is a new motivation.

There is a new method of dealing with loss. Matthew records the words of Jesus when He told the followers, that if one strikes you on the cheek, you are to turn the other cheek to be struck again. This was intended to be understood, both literally and figuratively. The figurative understanding is what I want to look at right now. It simply means that if someone wrongs you in some way, you are not only not to retaliate, but are to put yourself in the same position to be wronged again.

In one place in the scripture, Peter is talking to Jesus and asks if someone wrongs him, is he to forgive seven times even? Jesus tells him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” What was Jesus telling Peter? In this new covenant, there is a new law. There is a new ruler. Our hearts and lives are to be ruled by love. We are governed by a love that bears all things. This may seem overwhelming at a casual glance, but then we must understand that Jesus also tells us the He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. How can we bear it? We can bear it because our hearts are governed by a love that is able to bear all things.

The word used by the writer is ‘stegei’ which means ‘to cover’. The Word tells us that love will cover the multitude of sins.

Why is love long suffering? It is because this love covers the wrong. It keeps the resentment out like the roof covers the house and keeps out the rain. This covering we have as a protection against the weapons of the enemy of our soul.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul exhorts the believers to put on the whole armor of God. He tells them to do this that they may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand. He tells them to have their loins girt about with the truth and to have on the breastplate of righteousness. (love rejoices in the truth.) their feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. (Love does not behave itself unseemly.) Above all, they are to take the shield of faith. (Love believes all things) Take the helmet of salvation, he further urges, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [John 1.1] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. [1st John 4.8])

This love we have as a protection and a comfort. It stands between us and the world.

Mathew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Violence begets violence. When we encounter the world of the enemy, we are not to meet it with violence. We cannot defeat our enemy by becoming our enemy. God acknowledged that He was sending us out as sheep, and that we were going to be in the midst of wolves. He did not, however, send us out without a covering and a weapon. Love, unfailing, unwavering, unending love is our covering and our weapon. We will not convert the world by force. We will not win the lost by trickery or deceit. We will reach our world because we are governed by His love. It is this love that bears all things. It is this love that covers all things. It is this love that covers our sins. It is this love that must shine through us to a world that is groping in utter darkness. This love is the light set on the candlestick. This love is the city set on the hill that refuses to be hidden. This love is the light that will draw all men to it. This love that bears all things is what they need. This is what the world is seeking, whether they realize it or not.

This is what they are looking for in the bottom of the bottle. This is what they are seeking in the cylinder of the hypodermic. This is what they are searching for in relationship after relationship.

This love covers all things. Thereby, it is kind, does not envy, does not act rashly, or react harshly. It is not puffed up. It is not running to do harm. If it sees the faults of a brother, it is quick to bring it to them in a spirit of reconciliation and not to publically demand judgment.

This love will pass by and put up with injuries, without indulging anger or cherishing revenge. It will be patient upon provocation. It holds firm, though it be much shocked. It sustains all manner of injury and ill usage, and bears up under it, such as curses, slanders, prison, exile, bonds, torments, and death itself, for the sake of the injurious, and of others; and perseveres in this firmness.

This and more is why this love will ever be kind. This love we have as an insulator against the harsh and rash reaction of the flesh. We are all flesh. We will contend with this flesh in some manner as long as we are alive. Paul spoke in his letter to the church in Rome that in his flesh dwelled no good thing. He further told them that the will was present but how to perform that which was good was not. (Romans 7.18) he spoke of the constant warfare within his body and soul. We will be human until we are taken home, by death or by rapture. It is then and only then, that this corruption will put on incorruption. Then, this mortality will put on immortality. Until then, we have His love to carry us through. It is this love, His love, that we are to exhibit to the world.

Love endues without complaint. Some will suffer, but not without giving full acknowledgement to the depths of their suffering. Love does not complain about the suffering of humanity in as much as love believes it is working all things for its good, according to the Words of the love giver. Paul spoke about his thorn in the flesh, which he prayed about thrice, but came to accept it was his to keep him from becoming exalted. He never claimed to like or enjoy the condition, but did accept it by the love he bore, and endured it without constant complaining.

1Pe 5:8-10

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

For this cause we suffer with grace through love.

Job 13:15Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

The love, living in my heart, will bear and endure all things. In all that he bore, Job remained true to god in his love and integrity. He did not buckle under the load.

  • Believes all things and hopes all things

We live in a very cynical society. The prince of the air has so robbed this world of trust that no one trusts anyone else anymore. Everything is taken with a grain of salt. I heard a quote some years ago, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” These seem to be the watchwords of modern man. We, as Children of God are baptized into a love that believes. This love casts out doubt. If we have this love, we have this belief. If He loves us, and if He said it, He will do it.

When we have this belief in our God, it cannot help but ‘slop’ over into all our other relationships. This love causes us to trust. There is an acronym I created years ago based on the word ‘trusting’.

Truly * Relying * Upon * Something * That * Isn’t * Naturally * Given.

This trusting doesn’t mean that we believe all falsehoods or anything said to us. It does mean that we don’t naturally disbelieve everything. We give the benefit of the doubt. There will be times, no matter how carefully you plan that you may find yourself in a place where what is happening can be totally misconstrued. I was driving the van for the church once when I went to the hospital to visit one of our members that was there. The hospital had very limited parking at this time and there was none available in their lot. I parked across the street at a metered parking spot and proceeded with my visit. We talked a while and had prayer. I left the hospital, crossed the street, got in the van and left.

It was some time later that the word got back to me that someone was wondering why I was at a bar in the church van. Now, it was not likely that I would have been at a bar and less likely that if I was going to sneak out to a bar that I would drive the church van. Upon further inquiry, I found that the day in question was the day I visited the hospital. It seemed that the parking spot I chose on the street was in near proximity to the entrance to a bar. Someone, knowing the van and that I was driving, assumed that I was at the bar (I guess not taking into consideration that it was during the afternoon. I don’t even know if the bar was open at that time.)

God’s love, of which we are partakers, gives the benefit of the doubt. God’s love, if exhibited would have taken me to the side and asked rather than tell the tale with the slant on wrong doing. Love rejoices not in iniquity. Love rejoices in the truth.

Dad used to say that our feelings sometimes determine what we believe. If we hear a bad report about someone we don’t particularly care for, we are quicker to believe it. “I always knew they weren’t what they claimed.” However, if we hear a bad report about someone we love, we are quicker to defend. “I don’t believe it. There must be a simple and logical explanation.” The love of God is shared equally in both situations. Will there be times that we will be fooled? Oh, yes, there most certainly will be times like that. I quote dad again, who used to say, “I’d rather be taken a few times than be cynical about everyone.”

Love refuses to believe the bad until it has no choice. Then, love seeks to restore rather than reject. Love seeks to reconcile rather than exile. Love seeks to embrace rather than to turn away. The word tells us that if we see a man overtaken in a fault we are to restore them.

There is an old saying, “once a thief, always a thief.” How wrong is it to label a person because of some wrong action they took at one time in their lives? Love looks beyond the wrong and sees the soul that needs God. Love looks beyond the label and sees the potential of a testimony. I heard someone say, and it bears repeating here, “Don’t mistake the man for the moment.” In some weak hour, in some weak moment, we all might slip. How would we feel if we were forever labeled by some error or mistake in our lives?

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul further tells them that they (we) are to bear one another’s burdens. Job’s comforters came with accusations rather than comfort. Surely, you have committed some great sin for God to allow this to befall you.

Love believes no evil. There is a difference in believing something and knowing something.

For this belief, love rejoices in the truth. Love finds the good. Love does not entertain the evil that might be the motive, but rather believes there must be a reason beyond the evil that once lived in our own hearts.

The Word tells us that we have an anchor. An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, which is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. The anchor does so much more than just keep the ship from drifting while safe in the harbor.

When we think of an anchor, we most commonly think of the anchor attached by chain to the ship itself, however, the point to which the ship anchors in port, the immovable point, is also an anchor. The differences in the two are probably best summed up by the name of each. The anchor stored on the ship and attached by a chain is a temporary anchor. The immovable point to which a ship is secured in port is called a permanent anchor.

Heb 6:19Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”

This love hopes all things. This love attaches us to the anchor. This love, shed abroad in our hearts, ties us to the secure and steadfast point. The Bible tells us that our anchor is both sure and steadfast. The word for ‘sure’ is a compound word. It incorporates the negative article ‘a’ coupled with the word for ‘fail.’ The Word tells us that our anchor is unable to fail. The love in our hearts is the attachment to our anchor.

Love hopes that all will turn out well. This must also refer to the conduct of others; and it means, that however dark may be appearances; how much so ever there may be to produce the fear that others are motivated by improper motives or are bad people, yet that there is a “hope” that matters may be explained and made clear; that the difficulties may be made to vanish; and that the conduct of others may be made to “appear” to be fair and pure. Love will “hold on to this hope” until all possibility of such a result has vanished and it is compelled to believe that the conduct is not susceptible of a fair explanation. This hope will extend to “all things” - to words and actions, and plans; to public and to private contact; to what is said and done in our own presence, and to what is said and done in our absence. Love will do this, because it delights in the virtue and happiness of others, and will not credit anything to the contrary unless compelled to do so.

This wonderful, all encompassing love which we have in our hearts and lives will bear all things; it will believe all things; it will endure all things; it will hope all things. It will suffer long and remain kind. It will not envy, or act in haste. It is not full of itself and will not behave badly. It is not vain, nor easily provoked. It neither thinks evilly nor rejoices in that evil, but it celebrates the truth.

There are many lanes and avenues to following Christ. I do not, in this study, seek to diminish any of them. They all have their place of importance. I do not wish to diminish the need for repentance, or baptism, or Spirit infilling. They are all vital. However, Paul stated in the beginning of this part of the letter, that if he does not have love, it counts for little.

1st Corinthians 13.1-3

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Without love, the rest is a moot point.

Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1st Corinthians 13.8)

Next: The Conclusion

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