Impact

Love: Miles to Go Before I Sleep

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Love.

Love.

It’s not a feeling, a touchy feely-flutter in the heart. As Gary Smalley wrote years ago, Love is a Decision. It’s wanting and desiring the good and the best for those you love. It’s praying for it. It’s contributing to it.

It’s the Golden Rule.

When I look at where I’ve been, I’ve come a long way… When I look at where I am, I have a long way to go…

I remember reading a true story in a books from Voice of the Martyrs,[1] an account of one persecuted Christian who decided to love his or her torturer. How could such a thing be? It is un-human, above-human[2] for someone to love their torturer. It was other-than-human for Corrie ten Boom to forgive the guard from Ravensbruck concentration camp where she and her sister were imprisoned, where her sister died.[3] To love and forgive like that is not human, it is Christ-like! In the V.O.M. book the persecuted Christian said, in essence, “I did not like who they were or what they were doing to me, I wanted it to end. But I also wished for them to know the Lord Jesus Christ who saved me. I wanted them to know salvation. I prayed that they would believe in Jesus Christ. If they had that salvation, they would not have been torturing me. We would have been brothers.”

C.S. Lewis talks about this kind of love in Mere Christianity:"[A]pparently ‘Love your neighbour’ [sic] does not mean ‘Feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive.’ I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying.”[4] Lewis goes on to say that we often don’t like ourselves, don’t like to be alone with ourselves, find the things that we do annoying, even reprehensible. Yet we love ourselves. Thus we can feel the same about others, and still love them, too. “[We] must try to feel about the [other] as we feel about ourselves—” he writes, “to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That’s what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.”[5] "[Love], in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”[6]

God has been teaching me, slowly, over many, many (many) years, how to love others. And certainly I have miles to go before I sleep. I fail and fall down on this journey daily. Some days I don’t even get out of my proverbial bed or put on my shoes. It just seems so tough at times. And I’m often looking for a feeling to accompany an action. But I’m wrong in that second thought.

Back when I first started thinking about all this, another thought came to me; it was a question really: Is love was the beginning or the end of the Christian life? When Christ comes into a person’s life, does the love flow immediately and forever from that moment? or does it slowly build up over time? Love my torturer? Forgive the concentration camp guard? Even loving the overbearing megalomaniac micromanaging manager who was making me miserable was too much for me. Was the bar just too high? But perhaps I was setting the bar too high.

So I thought, “Perhaps I’m starting with the end all beat all thing. Maybe love is at the end of the trail I’m following. Maybe I’m attempting to jump right into the deep end when I can’t even swim yet. Maybe saying, I’m going to love everyone starting today is not really something for a novice like me. I’ve got to take baby steps, a little here, a little there.” After all, one can’t put the spire on the top of the Empire State Building if there are no floors built below it yet.

So God has begun a work in me (Philippians 1:6). And He keeps working in me and on me through many diverse situations. He has demonstrated to me that I can love others. (Perhaps another column I will give some of the examples.) Yes I fail. Many times I fail, especially with those closest to me—my wife, my family. But as Lewis would say, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That’s why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.”[7]

Someone else has said, “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

The end of our journey and sanctification is to be like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Jesus is the One to Whom we look as a model of perfection (Hebrews 4:15).[8] He is the standard (Matthew 5:17, John 14:9). We miss the mark; we fall short (Romans 3:23). And it is the life and work of Christ which raises us up, pays our debt, and makes up the deficit or gap found within us.[9] This is the Gospel. This is grace. And He has given us His Spirit, through Whom we are prodded and poked and strengthened and spoken to along the way. The Holy Spirit of God always points us to Christ. Perfection, perfect love, Christ-likeness is the end of Christian life, not necessarily the beginning or the middle or the three quarter point.

And now back to the journey…

If you also struggle with loving others, put aside for a moment loving the annoying or nagging in-law, put aside the girl you “hate” at your workplace, etc. Pick the person you love the best and then make small decisions to love them in those moments when you really do not feel like loving them. Make small decisions to love, help, or do something for them when you do not want to, when you do not feel like it, when it would interrupt your plans, etc.

What small decisions can you make daily, today, to love somebody?

Cue the BeeGees song.[10]

No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

 

 

 

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Feel free to read my other columns at http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-philadelphia/stephen-j-drain




[1]
Voice of the Martyrs at http://www.persecution.com/

[2] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_there_an_opposite_to_%27sub%27

[3] See http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/CorrieTenBoom.htm

[4] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, © 1943, 1945, 1952 by MacMillan Publishing Company, a division of MacMillan Inc., copyright renewed © 1980 by Arthur Owen Barfield, from the chapter on “Forgiveness”.

[5] Ibid.

[6] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, © 1943, 1945, 1952 by MacMillan Publishing Company, a division of MacMillan Inc., copyright renewed © 1980 by Arthur Owen Barfield, from the chapter on “Charity”.

[7] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, © 1943, 1945, 1952 by MacMillan Publishing Company, a division of MacMillan Inc., copyright renewed © 1980 by Arthur Owen Barfield, from the chapter on “Charity”.

[8] See also John 8:46, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22-24, and 1 John 3:5.

[9] Seer those same verses again: 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:21, even Matthew 5:48 with a verse such as John 14:31.

[10] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx_R5ZMs4mo

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J Drain

"Rescued, ransomed, and saved because of the love of God the Father, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, thanks to faithful preachers and teachers of the Word, attained by the perfect life and merit of Jesus the Messiah, His substitutionary death and physical resurrection from the dead. Completely undeserved and gifted to me." Steve would label himself an apprentice Christ follower, an Evangelical Christian with strong Reformed beliefs, a "Five Point Calvinist" (if you must). Steve loves discussing and debating the two "taboo" subjects: Politics and Religion. He tries to read and listen to a minimum of forty books a year and realizes that no matter what topic or genre, whether Bible, theology, Christianity, history, biography, philosophy, political, social commentary, pop-culture, or even fiction, they all tie together in the spider's web of worldview. His favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, James R. White, Gregory Koukl, R.C. Sproul, J. Gresham Machen, G.K. Chesterton, J. Budziszewski, and Peter Kreeft. He loves Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Voddie Baucham, and Dwight L. Moody. Steve's hobbies are generally reading and writing, music, hiking, and laughing. He has been writing songs/lyrics since the age of eight and has played in a few Christian Rock bands. He has written poetry, several biblical studies over the past decades, and has one finished book manuscript entitled, “Shaken Faith: When God Has Let You Down” (written with friend and co-author Al Rossi). He has also written for the now defunct Examiner website as the Philadelphia Christian Perspectives Examiner. He wishes he could write some fiction.