Many people are familiar with the famous Love chapter in the Bible book of 1 Corinthians (“love is patient, love is kind”). But I find the entire chapter fascinating. Here’s how it begins:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Apparently, it is entirely possible to do all these things for the wrong reasons - possibly for one’s reputation, to try and get into heaven, to make people like, love, and worship us, or to find meaning in this life.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b )
Let's Get Personal
If I use my time to passive-aggressively and continually share my new found knowledge, my opinions, my political views, my disappointments in humanity (other than myself, of course) on social media and in my family and friends circle, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I manage to earn my PhD, run a successful social media kingdom, attain a marriage, children, perfect body, and Pinterest-worthy house, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I sacrifice myself completely for my family, daily conquering my long to-do list, providing a perfectly clean, nutritious, nurturing, orderly environment for my spouse and children, but have not love, I gain nothing.
What then? Where do we start?
“Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Love is eternal. Prophecies, knowledge from our limited perspective, faith and hope are all temporary. They don’t follow us into eternity, where perfection is. Where we will see things clearly.
Remember the phrase “You can’t take it with you”? Love is the exception. Love you WILL take with you. Love is how you “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)
We want to be on top of things. In control. Making a difference. Progressing. But the most efficient way to ensure this is the most counter-intuitive:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)
It may look the same on the outside (other than our grumpy countenance), but how often do we actually do things for our family out of love, and not just because we are trying to placate them so we can get to ourselves and what we want to do?
I do this all the time.
The Real Reasons
Perhaps a helpful exercise would be sitting with a journal (or computer) and asking ourselves questions about why we do the various things we do. Some digging will probably be required to get to the real reason, desire, want, fantasy, whatever, that is driving our regular habits and main activities. Then we can ponder what the other members of our household may want or need. Then let's definitely think outside the box a bit when it comes to solutions. Do I HAVE to do this? Do I NEED to own those? Do I really WANT to be spending my time on that?
It doesn’t matter what our neighbors are doing, including our neighbors at church. It doesn’t matter what American culture is attempting to indoctrinate us with. It doesn’t even begin with what our spouse, parents and closest family and friends are doing, though yes, our lives should still be about giving.
Our lives are between us and God. And God has a lot to say in Scripture. He has a lot to reveal in creation. He has a lot of encouragement for us through kind-hearted believers who have no personal stake in our decisions.
I suspect that true joy, creativity, courage and purpose exist in the ordinariness of much of life...when we begin here. With Love. On page 1 with God. And walking with Him daily through the rest of the story. That’s when the covers come off and the real adventure begins. And no one can mess that up or take it away. From now into eternity.
If nothing else, think of this bridge.
What's the easiest way to cross this waterfall? Muddle through, exhaust yourself, desperately find rocks to cling to on your way over...or take the bridge?
Love is like taking the bridge. We can still hear the roar and feel the mist. We still have to quit hiding and walk across on our own two legs. But it's not nearly as exhausting and the view is much better. We aren't getting continually swept away by the chaos around us and in our own hearts and minds. We are safer and we'll get to our destination much quicker.
Because that's how Love Himself designed it. How He designed...us.