Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Study of Christian Love Part 5

Greetings again my dear readers:

So far we’ve covered a lot of territory in our look at the qualities of agape love which the Apostle Paul brought to the attention of his fellow Christians in Corinth.  I imagine you never really thought there was so much to it.  But as we learned in the first three verses of that important chapter in First Corinthians it is of such vital importance to our salvation that we should really try to understand the subject as thoroughly as possible, and its application in our lives.  That is why this series tries to leave no stone unturned.   We move on:

“It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1Co 13:6)

Do we entertain ourselves with stories of people doing things we know God does not approve of?  Do we find ourselves in agreement with ideas and actions which we know from God’s word he finds offensive?  Do we listen to gossip about others?  Do we secretly rejoice when others get away with something?  Those are all things involved in rejoicing in wrongdoing.

We don’t have to do anything ourselves, just passively approve of them in some way to be acting contrary to Agape love.  So, on the contrary, we avoid such approval and act positively by going the opposite direction.  Love rejoices with truth.  That means more than just avoiding wrong, it means to be focused on what is true.  That can mean on biblical truth, but it goes much further.  We would want to entertain ourselves with those things we know to be truth in a positive way.  We would rejoice with those who follow truth and work towards its glory.

Thankfully, there is music, books and movies which are healthy to entertain and stories around us to rejoice in.  We should especially be pleased to hear stories of how God has worked wonders in the lives of his saints.  That is one of the best kinds of rejoicing in truth available to us.  But being Christians does not mean we cannot entertain ourselves, if that entertainment is such as befits a holy people.

Now we turn to another aspect of love:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1Co 13:7)

Love bears up under the load of trouble or oppression, which can come in many forms.  Anytime people gather together as groups for a purpose there are inevitably stresses, politics and other things which may become a “load,” or burden.  The church is no exception this side of the veil.  That load may even become quite heavy as imperfect people are won’t to gossip or in other ways make the way harder for others for many reasons.  But not only do we not want to impute wrong motive to such who make the way harder in some way for us, as covered earlier, but love will move us to bear the load until the Lord sees fit to remove it.

Love believes all things, that is the good.  That’s why it is so loath to attribute wrong motives unless one has concrete proof to the contrary.  Love prefers to believe the best of our brethren, neighbors and others with whom we interacted with daily, but especially our dear brethren.  We never no why somebody might do something contrary to what we might expect in the way of manners, something people tend to get so easily bent out of shape over.

I grew up with a mentally ill mother.  Dad left us when I was an early teen and mother preferred to keep us to her self, not allowing us activities away from her.  Her illness was such that she was in no position to teach us children common manners.  And to this day I can go around a room full of people and offend many of them without any idea of how or why.  My beloved wife has tried to help in that regard, but it still happens at time in spite of my best efforts.  I know I give an extreme example, but ask your self next time somebody does so if perhaps it may just be they known no better, as in my case.  If we believe the best, hope the best; then we will be able to endure both the small and the great things which come our way.

Now I’m going to relate the story I mentioned about some Shakers earlier as this is probably the best way to end this part of our consideration before moving on to the last, and a very exciting part of the message Paul gave.  The shakers are virtually gone now, but for a time they were no really small group and what we consider a shining example of love as a quality.  They did have some extreme views; the communal living and denial of marriage and insistence on celibacy for members are all a big part of why they’ve passed from the scene to become a curiosity.

There is a story of a Shaker commune who discovered a significant part of their crops were being stolen.  When they met they chose their typical path of not reporting the crimes to the sheriff so that the thieves might be apprehended and punished.  They decided that if the thieves were stealing it they had a greater need for it than the Shaker community.  But the story doesn’t stop there.  In the spirit of Christian charity they simply planted more crops, enough to provide for the needs of both their community, and those who were stealing.  Would that all who call upon the name of Christ were that way!

The Shakers left us a wonderful set of abandoned communities which now serve as museums and stand in mute testimony to their industriousness, thrift and inventiveness.  But can anyone doubt their greatest legacy left for us consists of stories like that.  They encapsulate everything we’ve discussed so far about love as a practical matter in our lives.

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