"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Monday, August 31, 2009

More Lovein' Teachings

1Co 13:1-10 ESV (1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) 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. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (4) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
The apostle Paul concludes his message of unity in diversity begun in chapter twelve by expounding on "a more excellent way" than that of simply performing charismatic(spiritually gifted) acts. First, he prioritizes two facets of Christian life: proclaiming, and loving.         Compare Paul's teaching in I Corinthians chapter thirteen with James' teaching in chapter one of his epistle: Jas 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. So, comparing Paul's description of the useless noisiness of speech without love, we see that it distills out to simply worthless religion.         Let's further compare Paul's "speech without love" to James' "works without faith," encapsulated in his letter's second chapter, verse 26: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.         These two passages exemplify how principles taught in the Bible support, shape and modify one another. As a graphic example, a basic, rectangular table has four legs, one attached to each corner of the flat top. Would we trust that basic table to support our weight? What if we were to dance a jig up there? Probably not a good idea, without cross-bracing the legs. Paul's and James' two concepts, viewed graphically, form such a crossed beam relationship; the action of speech without the quality of love, versus the action of works without the quality of faith. Viewing one concept without the other produces an incomplete understanding of the relationship between each action's efficacy and its motivating quality.         Further exploring Paul's take on the issue, we see a latticework of comparisons supporting the one principle. First, of course, verse one mentions speech without love. We all know folks who seem to enjoy hearing their own voices, whether or not they have anything to say. Meet the brash-sounding cymbal. Verse two portrays the powerful, high-profile minister who courts the image of an all-knowing, all-understanding prophet of endless faith. Without presuming to judge such a person, when we see a demanding attitude, rudeness in their behavior toward the less worthy, or even humor at others' expense, we can't think very highly of them, and we are likely right. And verse three speaks of the philanthropic or the zealous, who pursue their sacrificial religious disciplines for any number of reasons ... love not being one of them. If only their wrong motivations were more obvious to their admiring public.         Then Paul gives us a number of criteria for discerning the quality of our motivation. One of them strongly infers that these standards must be applied mainly to ones self: (Love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.         All told, Paul's injunctions here leave little open to dispute regarding the primacy of our works' motivations. Why, then, do we see so godly love in action?         Because hating is easier. Love requires faithfulness, which is a word that our contemporary world has just about forgotten. Verse eight says it in three words: Love never fails. Romances fail. Marriages fail. Leaders fail. Both the strong and the weak, the great and the small fail, but love never fails. If you want to pursue some end that includes a panic button, run from love. Both the rewards and the costs of godly love are unimaginable. In sports terms, godly love is the Big Leagues, the Penant race, the World Series, while what the world calls love isn't even Little League; it's T-Ball.         Everyone seems to spend their lives chasing after something, thinking they'll know what it is when they find it. Yet, outside of Christ, they wouldn't recognize it even if they did find it. While godly love is the biggest and best purpose for our lives, and despite its high cost, it makes life worth living. That's one of those apparent conflicts between spiritual truth and the worldly wisdom we're used to. But God created us in his image, and part of that image is love.         Fulfill your destiny. Let God love the world through you. It's what you were meant to do.

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