Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A More Excellent Way

"But covet earnestly the best gifts.  And yet show I unto you a more excellent way."
I Corinthians 12:31
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul is describing spiritual gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues.  Then in verse 28, he talks about the governmental gifts given to the church: apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, those with gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  And then he tells us:  "eagerly desire the greater gifts."
And then despite that encouragement, he says "And yet show I unto you a more excellent way."
Paul then goes on to speak one of the most often quoted Scriptures in the Bible, especially at weddings.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Loves does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled, where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."
I Corinthians 13

I remember years ago when I was a young Christian, my pastor at that time, preached a sermon on this segment of Scripture.  He admonished us to read the Scripture by putting our own names in where it said "love."  For example:
Donna is patient, Donna is kind.  Donna does not envy, Donna does not boast, Donna is not proud.  Donna is not rude, Donna is not self-seeking, Donna is not easily angered, Donna keeps no record of wrongs.  Donna does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Donna always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Donna never fails.
Lord Almighty, help me!!
It doesn't matter if I have all of the gifts Paul describes, if I don't love, I am nothing.  If I give all kinds of money to the poor, maybe even travel to foreign countries and minister to the poor, if I am martyred for my faith, it amounts to absolutely nothing if I do not have love in my heart.  If I do all these things from any other motive than love, they mean absolutely nothing to God!
Love is the more excellent way!

When Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees, "...which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36), Jesus quoted two commandments.

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:37-40

Love God and love your neighbor.  Interesting, isn't it that He never said anything about good works, giving to the poor, being kind, live a life of self-sacrifice, etc.  He never mentioned any of that.

Know why?

Because He knew if we truly loved God and our neighbor, all those other things would fall into place.  Love is the great motivator.  Love is what motivates us to be kind, to treat others with respect, to forgive, to not be rude and so on.

There is no way we can love like that on a regular basis without God's help.  As we lean hard into Him asking Him to fill us with love for Him and for others, He is faithful in showing us just how to do that.

I have spent lots of prayer time saying, "God, I don't love him/her.  I don't even like him/her.  Help me, Lord.  Help me to love him/her the way you do, Lord.  Love them through me.  Use me to show your love."

The reason we need to show each other love and respect is because we are all God's creation.  We have been created by a God of love, who fashioned and formed us all in love.

"For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from yu when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before on of them came to be."
Psalm 139:13-16

Now let's try a different take on that verse:

God is patient, God is kind.  God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud.  God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs.  God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  God always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  God never fails.

Love - God is the author of Love.

His love never fails!

Lord, show me the more excellent way!


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