Love. Most people’s thoughts on love sort of irk me. (I know that sounds ornery, but hear me out) It would seem that we’ve come to base our belief about love on two major ideas; shows like the Bachelor (Again ornery, I am probably the only female on the planet who refuses to watch that show, but be my friend and hang on) and our feelings. This should concern you because this lack of knowledge is destroying marriages, families, churches and communities. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that Christian love is different from worldly love.
If we are to become more and more like Jesus, who is the exact imprint of God, and less like our old nature, then 1 Corinthians 13 serves us well in that journey. This passage might seem so common to some that it feels almost breezy. But when we attempt to put these ideas into practice, it is anything but breezy. In fact, this kind of love leads to a peculiar kind of death. John 3:16 makes clear the death this kind of love demands. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…” This Holy love led a divine man to endure the ultimate suffering for the sake of others. The suffering of Christ tore the veil and the love of God was no longer hidden. We meet this great love at the brutal cross. The cross represents the self-sacrificing point at which Jesus laid everything down in bloody horror for our sake and here we are invited into community with him. To enter his death is to enter his love. We will find no greater friendship than that of Jesus, but that friendship came at a cost. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I am sure that Jesus didn’t feel like loving us as he hung in agony while so many he came to save mocked and denied him. But he made the choice to stay and love us into community with him. And that is the greatest love story ever told. I don’t see that kind of depth in the popular love of the day that is self-serving rather than self-sacrificing.
If we identify with Christ, then we cannot stop at simply receiving this love and move on unchanged. Christ’s love begins a sanctifying work in our hearts and beckons us to begin to love others in the same way. The 1 Corinthians call to love is one that consistently dies to self for the sake of another. This kind of love is patient when wronged, it is kind when insulted. This kind of love celebrates another, instead of seeking attention for itself. This love causes one to lay down his rights and standards for the benefit of another. It’s a love that might not always “feel” easy but we love out of obedience despite the difficulty.
Jesus brought a paradigm shift to a very homogenous religion and taught that God’s love is so intense, so passionate, so consuming that it was never intended to be contained within one people but was meant to move through His people to transform the world. The plan was for his love to reach every tribe, nation and tongue. The plan was that His love would transcend all cultures, social class systems, and political associations. That plan is still in place and it is this great love that is advancing His Kingdom. Love is a powerful weapon but it is also a choice. We can choose to love freely and wildly and allow that love to build God’s Kingdom or we can be stingy with our love by only loving those who agree with us or those who look like us and build our own kingdoms. God gives you the choice. But one of those kingdoms will crumble and one will remain. What kingdom will your love build? Let’s challenge each other to build wisely.