Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Truth About Love

Among the reasons I love studying Scripture so much is something Jesus mentions in Matt. 13:52.

Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.

The idea behind this statement is that the words of God have endless application. Some of the concepts will be from favorite verses that you turn to frequently. Others appear where you never noticed them before. They were always there, but you see them for the first time. I hope that never stops for me.

The Love Chapter

What brings this up was a recent reading of 1 Cor. 13. This passage is known as the “Love Chapter” because in it the Apostle Paul defines the characteristics of love and its place as the central virtue of Christian living. If you have been to more than a few church weddings in your life, then you have almost certainly heard it. It is a heartwarming way to start a marriage, reminding the new husband and wife that love is about selflessness.

Of course, that is not what the passage was explicitly about in context. I’m not saying there is anything wrong in using it for a wedding. It is totally appropriate. Marriage was just not what Paul was talking about at the time. He was focused on relationships within the church.

The church at Corinth was pretty dysfunctional. Serious sins were ignored while other petty squabbles were taken to secular courts, and there was a great deal of division over teachings, material wealth, and spiritual gifts. The “haves” lorded over the “have-nots” in a way that shamed the message of the gospel. Specifically in regard to spiritual gifts, Paul had used chapter 12 to show the Corinthians that differences were not to be a source of arrogance or shame, but to be diverse enough for all needs to be met. God does not intend them to be a point of comparison.

Chapter 13 is how he finishes that thought. The Corinthian Christians were very proud of their gifts, particularly of speaking in tongues. But because they used them for self-satisfaction rather mutual edification, they were worthless. Paul was hoping to show that all we do should be done with the same heart Jesus showed on the cross. We should be known for the love we have for each other, not for fixating on whether one is better than another.

New in the Old

Maybe you are hearing that about the “Love Chapter” for the first time, which would prove my point. A scripture you have heard before now has a new application. What inspired me to write this, though, was a refreshed appreciation for 1 Cor. 13:6 in particular. That verse reads,

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.

It’s a simple statement, but powerful in our day and age. Many people believe that love is impossible without validation. If you love someone, then you must support them in anything they want to be and do. Otherwise, you are seen as hating and oppressing them.

This verse reminds us that is not the case. Love is tied to truth with an unbreakable bond. If something is unrighteous, that means it is not in the right. It is not in accordance with the truth. When others pursue things that are not right or believe things about themselves that are untrue, it would not be loving to celebrate them. And what they want and “feel” does not determine goodness and truth. God does that.

Now, does Paul say to shun and shame people who are living in their lies? No! Otherwise, we would have no one to talk to. What he says is that our love for them includes a responsibility to be honest with them. We cannot comfort each other in our sins. Rather, we have to point out the need for grace. Love requires that we show people to the cross. Their imperfections do not require validation. They require covering in the blood of Christ, and they need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to enable them to live in the truth.

That’s a lot for Paul’s few brief words to say. But they do. They always have. One of the wonders of the Bible is how we can notice those things as though they are new. I’m glad to have been able to see this one now, and I hope you were, too. It is a reminder we desperately need as we converse with a world with the wrong idea of what love is.

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