Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 22 May 2023:
Isaiah 15 – Moab is undone…. Moab is undone…. Moab wails…. his soul trembles….
There comes a point when it is too late to mourn and cry out for mercy because judgment has already been decided.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13, “The Great Love Chapter,” is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible, and the above verses are familiar to many who have never read the Bible because they are often recited at weddings. However, these verses should probably be read to ourselves every morning and then used as a nightly debrief to ourselves at the end of every day to assess how we did. Love is our Greatest Command from God and the chief virtue a Christian should embody. How important is love? Well, the Bible says, God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love is the fruit of our relationship with Him. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to naturally love others as He loves. Love is not something we create but rather something we emanate or radiate from Him, and the closer we are to God in our love relationship with Him, the more brightly our love shines before others. Consider the below verses:
- John 15:4-7, 9 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
- 1 John 3:14-15, 17, 24 — We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him…. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?… Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
- 1 John 4:7-8 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
- 1 John 4:10, 12, 16 — In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 1 John 4:19, 20 — We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
- 1 John 5:1 — Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
- Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness….
Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit which comes from God and is revealed by His children as they remain connected to Him as a branch is connected to a vine (see John 15). Today Paul explains that real love is nothing less than miraculous and that to be a person who truly displays love is far more amazing and powerful than being a person who can speak in tongues, prophesy, preach, teach, heal, or anything else. Some may boast about their spiritual gifts or simply their natural gifts, but few can boast of this sort of love. Love like this is genuine evidence of a close relationship with Jesus.
The product of love is loving behavior. However, many fall short of real love and deceive themselves by focusing merely on behavior modification rather than heart transformation. You can act loving without actually being loving. Jesus called this sort hypocrites (the Greek word for stage actors or people who played a role, perhaps very convincingly). The problem with behavior modification is the heart (who you actually are and what you really want) will eventually and ultimately overpower the willpower which you use in a vain attempt to be what you really aren’t. People have actually trained bears to ride bicycles (once a standard performance in Russian circuses); however, once the incentives of reward and punishment are removed, the bear always returns to its natural behavior. The struggling moralist is much the same. Ultimately, love can only come from a loving heart, and a loving heart can only come from unhindered and uninterrupted oneness with God who, again, is the only source of true love.
Comments from Henry T. Blackaby — Love has no limits. Love never says, “You’ve gone too far. I can’t love you now.” “All things” means everything is included. Christlike love leaves no doubt in the mind of another that you will continue to love steadfastly. Do those close to you know that they can fail and do foolish things, yet you will not falter in your love for them? Are others assured that, even when they hurt you, you still love them, holding nothing against them? Love assumes the best about others. If someone inadvertently offends you, you choose to believe the offense was unintentional. If someone seeks to harm you, you “bear all things,” forgiving unconditionally. If a positive light can be shed on a difficult encounter, you grasp it. If someone continually provokes you, you “endure all things.” You never lose hope in the ones you love. You practice the same unconditional love toward others that Christ gives to you. Paul said that he was nothing if he had the faith to move mountains, the tongue of an angel, and the gift of prophecy to understand all mysteries, yet did not have God’s love. It is unacceptable to say, “Well, I just can’t love people that way!” When God loves people through you, this is the only kind of love He has! Read 1 Corinthians 13 with gratitude that God has already expressed this complete and selfless love to you. Pray and ask Him to express it through you now, to others.
Here is an audio study on The Priority of Love by R.C. Sproul which you might find helpful:
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 May 2023: Make genuine love your goal today. Display 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 somewhere prominently; memorize them; recite them to yourself throughout the day; practice them; pray about them; compare your thoughts, words, and deeds to them; and evaluate your behavior.