Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Study of Christian Love Part 3

Greetings again my friends and readers!

We’ve seen in my previous posts why it is important to understand all we can about Christian love.  We’ve also had a look at what Paul wrote concerning love, that “Love suffereth long, and is kind.”  We believe that the next part of Paul’s exposition enlarges on that thought by contrasting patience and kindness with what follows so we may understand how love acts through avoiding certain conduct.  The list is by no mean comprehensive, but serves as a guide for us:

“love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1Co 13:4)

Are we jealous of other’s success?  That is the thought behind the Greek word ζελεοω (G2206).  It is same word from which we get the English word, zeal, so it is distinguished from simple envy by a matter of grade.  The world today is captivated by the concept of equality of outcome, not opportunity.  People are taught through various ways to resent those who are successful and politicians are playing on that resentment with promises to impose an equal outcome through what is called income redistribution.  That is an extreme form of what we’re talking about, but it illustrates it in a way we all see in daily life.

Envy is a natural emotion because of the flesh’s fallen nature.  But it is an emotion we should cut-off every time it rears its ugly head because it leads to full-blown resentment, or misplaced zeal, motivating one’s heart.  So do we hold onto and nurse envy to the point of resentment when passed over for a promotion in favor of another who clearly does not qualify as well as us, or do we nurse a resentment when another gets a position in a Church or Ecclesia, or Congregation ahead of us?  Are we jealous, another nuance of the Greek word, at the success of neighbors, family, or even friends?

While envy may be something we might have and keep to ourselves resentment tends to predispose us to act on that envy.  This is often the basis for many contentions in Churches.  One may resent even the spiritual progress of a brother or sister and that resentment may motivate one to spread gossip or in other was act to harm the object of our resentment.  So resentment is something to avoid like the plague.  True αγαπη love for our family, neighbors and fellow workers and brethren helps us to avoid acting out on envy because it “envieth not.”  It is proactive itself and doesn’t allow resentment to take root.

I’m sure we all know somebody who loves to toot their horn and brag about accomplishments either real or imagined.  That is an example of what the Greek word for the next anti-quality to love, “love vaunteth not itself,” means.  If we have real love in the Christian way it is enough that we have the little bit of pride which come from accomplishment and no more (Rom. 12:3).  We think that a widely misunderstood verse because it is often used to teach that all pride is wrong.  But that’s not what it says.  It acknowledges that some pride in one’s accomplishments is proper in a Godly way.  However, too much pride is inappropriate.  That is why we find that those of the Church who are mature are genuinely humble, that is they don’t toot their horns.

The next anti-quality is related to the last as both involve too much pride.  In fact the word, which means “to puff up” (G5448) is believed to be used in this place to mean one who is overly proud.  We’ve all seen folks like that.  They are kind of like a rooster getting ready to crow.  The rooster outs his feathers out, as if inflating himself up to a greater size.  Then he crows.  So preening oneself with pride may lead to the preceding sinful conduct, boasting.

It helps to remember what we’re being called for.  We’re being called to be “Kings and priests” who are going to sit in judgment of our fellow men (Rev. 20:4-6).  So we need to keep in mind the sort of men God seeks for such roles.  Of Moses it was said that he was the humblest of all men on the face of the earth at that time (Num. 12:3).  The judges were generally humble people.  David started out as a humble shepherd boy and though he had a few faux pas he remained humble and did his best to follow God’s directions.  And we could go on, ending up with Jesus’ disciples.  We want to fill our place in God’s plan, so humility is a trait we want to cultivate, and is an evidence of having True Christian love.

So now we’ve seen that in a word love is not overly proud, that the meek and humble are what God is looking for to be a part of his plan.  Unselfish love is just that, humble, and helps us not to have too big an opinion of ourselves and act rudely toward others.  That is what we’ll get more into with our next post.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A study of Christian Love: Part 2

 Greetings dear readers:

Last week we looked at why it is important to understand everything we can about love.  We found out that our winning the right to stand at Christ’s side as a part of his bride in heaven rides on how well we exemplify that quality in our hearts, thoughts and deeds.  Paul now directs our attention to what love is:

“Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1Co 13:4)

Suffereth long,” is a literal translation of the Greek word μακροθυμει, which is the third person present active indicative of the verb μακροθυμέω (G3114).  Modern translations tend toward translating it as “is patient,” a more easily understood concept.  The thing to understand is that the verb really means to patiently put up with slights from others.

Do we exemplify that trait in our daily lives with others?  Think for a moment how God puts up with the way his name is dragged through the mud and slandered.  Right now we see people openly declaring that he either does not exist at all or that he is the cruel sort of God no sane person could ever want to love and serve.  Often this is because of God dishonoring doctrines of men or other self-serving interpretations of scripture, all of which misrepresent the God of the Bible, and the acts of those influenced by such things.  And yet, the sun still rises and the rains fall to provide for those who so ill treat him.  It isn’t his fault greed results in such unequal distribution of his blessings.

So do we put up with the weaknesses of our brethren, who are imperfect after all and still have work to do on their personalities?  Do we patiently put up with those outside the Church who just don’t know better and are still a part of this selfish world?  Are we quick to overlook their unthinking slights and other selfish actions, taking no umbrage at what they do, always assuming no overt motive without clear evidence to the contrary?

And even then are we “kind” to those who do, just as our heavenly father lets the sun rise on the wicked as well as the good?  The word “kind” here is another Greek verb, χρηστεῦομαι (G5541).   Χρηστεῦομαι means to be “good, gracious, kind” according to Vines.  Thayer’s defines it as “to show one’s self mild, to be kind, use kindness.”  So, far from just bearing up under perceived wrongs, do we go out of our way to be kind to others, to treat all graciously with kindness? Is that grace genuine, even to those we may not like or who have made themselves our enemies?

I live down in the South were false grace and kindness is an art.  Time and again I’ve seen people smile at those they don’t like while in their hearts they are savoring the opportunity when they can stab them in the back.  No, such a façade is not the way of consecrated thinking and action and to give in to the temptation of it will cause us to lose out on the prize.  Our kindness should be genuine, without any trace of guile and straight from a heart that loves God and seeks to be like him and his son.  All of our dealings with our neighbors, fellow workers, family, others and especially brethren should be done in a kind spirit motivated by genuine agape love, the love which seeks no return. 

I like stories and such about the Quakers because they tried to exemplify unselfish love in their dealings with others.  I May find room to tell a story I love to tell later in this series, but for now I’ll relate an old Quaker motto.  “I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer it, nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

I think that kind of puts it in perspective.  True Christians don’t expect to be in this world again.  We expect to go on to heaven, there to serve God in our part of his plan.  So while we may help people in the kingdom of our Lord, we won’t have the same opportunities to be kind to others we have now, or in the ways we can on this earthly plane.  So why pass up such opportunities as present themselves to us now?  This quality of love will help us to be like our heavenly father, who is “kind to the unthankful and evil” right now dear reader (Luke 6:35).

Thank you for taking the time to read this little study on the first two things Paul mentions about love.  Paul next turns his attention to what Love is not.  We will pick up our study there with my next post.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A study of Christian Love: Part 1

Hello there Dear Readers:

One of my classes is wrapping up a study of first Corinthians chapter thirteen, the “love” chapter in the Bible.  I’ve already done an article on Love here.  However, what I’m going to do here is to take the kind of love Christian writers in the Bible pushed the idea of, agape love, and find out what we learn about it from the Apostle Paul’s exposition on this kind of love.

The important thing to remember in our consideration is what agape love is.  It is pure and unselfish love.  All other kinds of love have an element of self-interest, or selfishness, in them.  That is what differentiates the kind of love God has for humanity from all other kinds of love and what makes it such a valuable quality to cultivate to the greatest extent possible.  It is that unselfish quality of agape love which allows it to rise above what others may do to us and allows us to even have real love for our enemies and be ready to forgive them.  I would like to mention that I’m going to use the American Standard Version of the Bible when I quote the passage.  So without further ado:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”  (1Co 13:1-3)

Paul leaves us in no doubt about the importance of having this kind of love.  Just prior to this passage Paul was discussing the unity of the Body of Christ, the true Church.  The Corinthians had a big problem with divisions with little clics in the Church there who were essentially forming their own little sects at enmity with each other.  He brought in the subject of the Gifts of the Spirit because apparently some had pride in having those gifts and felt they gave them some sort of superiority over the other members of the Body of Christ. 

Then he rammed it home how foolish such divisions and thinking were with the simple statement where he tells them how important genuine unselfish love was, and still is today.  John tells us in his first letter to the Christians at the end of the first century twice that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  That phrase is an example of what some folks argue the final theos, or god in John 1:1 is, qualitative.  What the phrase “God is love” really means is that God epitomizes the quality of love in the highest and most unselfish sense of the word.  Nothing he does is out of any selfish motive and always out of or tempered by love in its purest sense.

That same love is supposed to be our motive for or temper whatever we do.  It is that nobility of purpose we should aim for as well and without it all our efforts to serve God are in vain.  That is the bottom line Paul uses to introduce his exposition on what love really is.  Has he caught your attention, dear reader?  Do you see how vital it is to pay attention to the rest of the chapter on love and study it closely?  Few things are really more vital than wanting our Christian step to succeed!  So please follow me as we go further into the subject of what real love is for the Christian in my next post.