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.

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