we have a new pastor at our church; after more than a year with a truly amazing and loving interim pastor to tide us over from the unexpected death of our shepherd, our church sat waiting to see if God had sent us a messenger, or if we just got hit by one of the far too numerous number seeking to use His Word for personal gain. to assuage our fears, but more importantly even, to start off the year united in Christ, our new pastor decided we would forego our usual two Sunday services for one, united gathering. it was awesome, and my wife and i hope it becomes a normal occurrence. in the grand tradition of church-going Americans, my wife and i tend to spend the car ride home discussing the day of worship, and today, my wife had one particular thing she had been dying to talk about. see, the sermon was centered on Romans 12:9-10
“9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV)
now, the body of the sermon was about our need as a congregation to be and exhibit love if we plan on being of any value, being “irresistible” in the world; but at one point, he said one thing, and let’s just say my wife didn’t like it so much. his statement? if someone says they love you, but they are causing you harm, then they don’t really love you. so there we were, a few hours or so later, and my wife had some words.
“sometimes people who love you do hurt you; in fact, often times it’s the ones who love you the most and are closet to you that cause you the most pain; that’s true with us.” gotta love wives; they definitely help you find out if you know the Word as well as you pretend to. so we talked about the exercising of love, and how it isn’t always present in the interactions between two people who love each other; in the end, i was able to help her understand the point our new pastor didn’t really have time to fully belabor from the pulpit. one thing came out in our exchange that deserves a little meditation. as parents, we have seen that sometimes, in exercising your love, though you are not harming them, you may indeed cause pain; this pain, rather than harm, does one good, leading them in the direction they may most want to go. like a bit in the mouth of a horse, or the rudder on a ship. i am reminded of an awesome song by Beautiful Eulogy that speaks on the function of love in the lives of Christians as the kite string that enables us to soar to the heights of our purpose in being. i am also mindful of how this explains why the world just doesn’t understand how i can read Scripture whereby God demands the lives of entire civilizations, women, children, and even animals, and still call Him love. but, see, my feeble mind can already begin to understand how a loving, caring person is willing to be called the villain, spit on and cursed at for causing some pain, all to avoid the real harm to the loved one. my little pea brain can begin to fathom that sometimes the view from one place blocks the sight of the aggressor who is already charging towards me, so when i am shoved into a thorny bush, that is actually saving me, preserving me, keeping me from harm. my poor excuse for intelligence has begun to realize that love, real love, sometimes hurts, so that it can keep the object of love from injury. the world would have us believe that we are crazy for saying God is love, pointing to the Word as evidence of Him as a genocidal, bigoted monster; but when i look at the Scripture, i see my loving Father, who stops at nothing, not even withholding His only Son, to keep those He loves from the most worrisome of all harms: the flames of hell.
“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. 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. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)
love is putting the recipient above all else; being willing to even “be the bad guy” if that’s what it takes to exercise love for them. thank You, Father, for loving me enough to see through Your plan for my life. thank You, my Savior, for loving me enough to take on human form, suffer, and die in my place for my sins. thank You, Holy Spirit, for loving me enough to dwell in me, work through, by and for me, and continually purify me in preparation for a reward that i not only don’t deserve, but never could’ve earned. thank You, LORD, for being love.