August 8, 2011

Summer Sabbath Devotional- Week 6

Faith, Hope and Love
August 8, 2011

We’ve been working our way through first Corinthians all summer, so with this, the final devotional of the Summer Sabbath, I want to focus on arguably the most familiar passage from that book. And though it is very familiar, I want to look at it with fresh eyes.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others,
I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy,
and if I understood all of God’s secret plans
and possessed all knowledge,
and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor
and even sacrificed my body,
I could boast about it;
but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable,
and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice
but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—
and the greatest of these is love.

Paul is saying if I had a magic wand and it could grant me everything of value to this world: a brilliant mind, all knowledge of now and the future, all riches and power, but I lacked love, I would lack everything needed for a life that mattered. And I want a life that matters now and long after I’m gone.

This is really the whole point Paul is trying to make in his letter to the Corinthians. He is trying to stress to them, the new life they have in Christ, isn’t about rules and laws or about freedom verses constraint. He wants them, and by extension, wants us to understand it is much, much bigger than that. Because this new life we have is about love.

We may think we understand love. (yawn here)
But I know I don’t. If understanding goes beyond theory, to doing, I have a long, long way to go in my understanding of love. I certainly don’t live love, as described above, all the time and in all of my relationships and all my encounters with other human beings on this planet.

Love is what God is
Love is why Jesus came
The love we show and extend to others matters more than we can possibly imagine
Love changes everything
Love is bigger than life and stronger than death
And love is as small as the broken cracks in our heart that no one else knows about
Love breathes life
into us, into others and into the world
Love has no fear (what would it be like to never again experience fear, worry, or dread?)

Every good thing I have, every right I claim, everything of value in my life comes from Christ. And through Christ I have every freedom. Freedom matters.

But when freedom’s aim isn’t love it becomes freedom wasted.
Love matters more. And ultimately love will always win.
And at the end of the day, the end of my life and ultimately at the end of this age, only one thing will remain.

Questions to think about:

1. Re-read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, (many times this week) what hits you the most? Does any part of it jump out and hit you right between the eyes? Is there part of this description of love you wish you embodied more?
2. Is there a relationship in your life that could use more of a certain aspect of this love? What, by God’s grace, can you do about it this week?
3. Love is His will being done, His Kingdom coming now, on earth as it is in Heaven. Look for opportunities where you can take some risks to live out this type of love at work or school or just in everyday encounters with people.
4. Another way to think about love is this: what do I fill my life with, nouns or verbs? Things or actions? Which will leave behind the story I want my life to tell?
5. What are you nurturing in your life now that you will bring into heaven? Selfishness can’t come. Jealousy, envy, greed, sarcasm, worry, fear, cynicism, bitterness, these things won’t be in heaven. But patience, kindness, joy, truth, faith and hope, will come with us. These things are a part of the Kingdom to come. How can you cultivate more heaven on earth in your life now?

Romans 11:29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.
May you recognize His call and live committed to it.

“Indeed, God’s grace is enough.
Now friends…
Go in peace, and may the grace of our mighty God go before you.
May the hand of our Lord Jesus rest upon you,
And, may the power and love of the Holy Spirit fill you,
now and forever more.”

Karen Greschel
1965 - 2011

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