Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fruits of the spirit 3: Yet another look at love.

Galatians 5:22-23

King James Version (KJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

1 Corinthians 13

King James Version (KJV)

13 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.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

John 13:35
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

We are living in a very selfish society. In fact, we are living in the age that scripture warned us about: "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Mt 24:12)

The younger generations have been described as "the ME generation." In just a few short years, we've gone from "Ask not what your country can do for you," to "What's in it for me?" 

Almost all of our decisions in our society are based on that one concept. "What looks like it will benefit me the most in my opinion?" That last phrase, "in my opinion," is extremely important. We vote for who will benefit us the most. We jump from job to job based on what's best to us. We (and I'm not advocating this) jump from spouse to spouse because the new one looks easier to deal with, or looks more attractive (we think), or can provide us a better standard of living, etc. 

For the Christian, our motivations in life should start and end with, A) what does Jesus want me to do?, and b) LOVE. 

Our questions should be like these: "What benefits the kingdom of God more?" "What will benefit my family more?" 

Love doesn't change because we hit a rough stretch on our road of life. Love is in it for the long haul (Beareth all things, suffereth long, seeketh not her own, etc). Indeed, when we pray and hold onto each other through the hard times, it makes our love grow and makes the good times that much better.

I once heard a story. I don't know who wrote it (or I'd give them credit here). I don't know if it is true or an allegory. But, it illustrates true love to me like no other story I've ever heard,  short of Calvary. 

There once was a man who was the president of a large Christian college. In his time there, he had expanded the programs and had been personally responsible for helping to send many preachers and missionaries to the world.

However, his wife came down with Alzheimer's disease. Because of this, he tendered his resignation in order to take care of her. The board of regents and many Christian leaders implored him to stay on and not step down. 

"Just put her in a home," some said. Others said, "Put her in a hospice care." "You're not equipped to take care of her anyway." "You have a great ministry here. You can't give it up for her. Besides, she doesn't remember who you are!"

With tears in his eyes, the man looked at these people and answered them: "This woman has faithfully stood by my side for over thirty years. She birthed our children. She stayed beside me in good times and she stayed beside me in the bad times. She loved me when I was right, and when I was wrong. She may not remember me. But, I remember her. And I will care for her and love her till death do us part and beyond."

With that, he left the board room forever.

Love truly means putting others first, no matter how difficult that may be. If we love our spouses and families, we will do what we need to do in order to care for them. We will lead them in the ways of God because we love them and God. If we love Jesus we will keep his commandments. 

No matter how hard it may be, how much trouble it may cause us, how much effort we have to put forth, we are to love others. 

That means swallowing our pride. That means not worrying about who's right in an argument. That means being willing to die for them. 

This is why we need the spirit of God. We cannot love others the way the Lord commands unless we let him love them through us. 

Let us stay connected to the branch so that his love can be shed abroad in our hearts and we can bear the fruit of love. And when hungry people are seeking the Lord, they will be drawn to him through the love fruit they see hanging on our branches.