Saturday, May 27, 2017

What Love is Not - Getting to the Root

     Christians and non-believers alike are all keenly familiar with 1 Corinthians 13. The LOVE chapter. Usually gracing the middle of wedding ceremonies, the list scrolls: "Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres". There are so many lessons in this text! What is this envy which challenges Love? What is this boasting which damages love? What does a protecting love look like? How can we persevere in Love? How do we do it all?!

     Recently, I have been mulling over the five words "Love is not self seeking". What does it mean to be self seeking? Is it really just selfishness...wanting your own way all the time? As believers (and hopefully mature adults...;)), it is kind of understood that we won't be going "gimme, gimme, gimme" all the time. We should not be hearing of major tantrums when someone takes something we wanted. We shouldn't be irate when someone gets a position we wanted -- whether it is on the Worship team or a position at our job. Where the Spirit of Christ is working, there should be an offering of preference extended to others. We SHOULD be going out of our way to show graciousness, mercy and generosity. 

     BUT. What I HAVE been thinking on are the sneaky little self-seeking thoughts that so often tiptoe their way into our minds. The thoughts that unconsciously can take root and grow into a stubborn weed. When someone says something with a "tone". When someone wears something we deem 'inappropriate' to church. When we see someone who seems to be better friends than we are with people. When we compare ourselves, our relationship with Christ, our physical appearance, our ANYTHING with others. When we get our feelings hurt. When someone makes a mistake which we think "foolish". When we see others with SO many more gifting than we see within ourselves. Note that I said WHEN....not IFWe are going to encounter each of these things. Someone WILL offend us (just go get on Facebook..aheh...). Someone WILL have a 'tone'--whether intentional or because of life stress spilling over into our conversation. Someone WILL be more "gifted" than us. We WILL get our feelings hurt. (We're human! and we aren't in Heaven yet!) ;)

     I, personally, am realizing more and more how sensitive *I* am. I am a conflict avoider, which makes me even MORE aware when there are undertones in voices or in situations  (I'm talking beyond "natural introverted quietness"). When this happens, I fold. I curl up in a ball inside and try to hide. I shut down because I feel helpless to fix things or I assume major guilt for problems I am not a part of. I don't want to get my heart hurt and so I put up a protection of silence. I have found that sometimes I withhold my opinion or my thoughts because someone might be hurt by the Truth...or they might reject ME. Jesus, in His INCREDIBLE kindness, has deemed it quite time to weed this out of my heart. PRAISE THE LORD! I never realized what it fully looks like until we recently had a series of several conflicts. I felt like my eyes were opened up to the way that I respond--which may seem harmless to the outside, but it is actually quite painful to those around me. I was putting myself first by intentionally shutting others out. "I won't let you hurt me" was the foundation I laid, brick by brick. Word by poorly timed word. I was seeking myself first.


     As the Lord has been healing my heart of some past wounds, I feel like He is re-teaching me the foundations of Love. Jesus Himself is LOVE---complete surrender to the Fathers will, ultimate giving of His entire life, and choosing to continue caring for us even while we were (and ARE) so unable to repay our debt. His love...His LIFE never was self-seeking. He never shut down when others hurt Him. He knew the Father. He knew where He stood in the Father's affections. He knew His Father's heart. He knew the Scripture. He poured out. He prayed. He walked in the Spirit. He healed, He encouraged, He challenged, and He never STOPPED. 

   So....I've been working on two new lists. I'm calling them "Lists of the Heart". Lists that we, especially as proclaiming Christians, need to fully grasp. If we want the World to actually SEE Jesus, WE have to get out of the way. We have to stop tearing one another down. WE have to make a decision--we have to stand against this. Self-centeredness has no place in the body of Christ. 

"Love is Not"
-Love is not defensive. 
-Love is not suspicious. 
-Love does not assume. 
-Love does not intentionally withhold affection. 
-Love does not withhold Truth. 
-Love does not accept a "defeated mindset" because it is not focused on winning. 
-Love is not self-centered. 
-Love does not build walls. 
-Love does not shut out or down.
-Love does not show partiality. 
-Love does not doubt. 
-Love does not rejoice in other's failures...or missed opportunities. 
-Love does not challenge harshly. 
-Love does not mock. 
-Love does not "lord" over another person. 
-Love is not vindictive (revengeful). 
-Love does not lash out in anger.
-Love doesn't harm. 
-Love does not gossip (speaking ill of another's character, even if "it's true")

"Love IS"
-Love is a defender -- a defender against the lies of the Enemy.
-Love seeks to address conflict without tearing another down.
-Love encourages -- when someone is struggling, Love comes alongside and says "lean on me".
-Love THINKS WELL of others -- even if evidence may suggest otherwise, Love CHOOSES to believe well
-Love GIVES affection without counting the cost. 
-Love generously shares the Truth, in kindness.
-Love shares the burden
-Love is Christ-conscious, eyes fixed upward instead of on self. 
-Love tears down walls and opens the door to all who would come in. 
-Love chooses to accept, unbiased
-Love rejoices in other's success!
-Love builds up others -- in courage, peace, hope and FAITH. 
-Love serves. 
-Love CHOOSES to forgive...not because they FEEL like it.
-Love pours out. 
-Love does not keep tally on favors. 
-Love speaks well of others. 

     What I want, what I REALLY want, is to fully grasp this. I want all of us to grasp this. What would it look like if we weren't satisfied with addressing only the outward signs of selfishness? What if we actually humbled ourselves enough to stare that weed in the face, and then have the Lord begin to remove it? I want to live out Corinthians. I want to shine the love of Christ--by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the thing is, we CAN'T do any of the above without the help of the Spirit. There is no physical way we can choose selflessness when selfishness comes naturally! But the most amazing thing is that "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). God has shown us incredible, selfless Love. In turn, He has given us the Holy Spirit, not only that we might walk in righteousness and LOVE, but so that we might also show HIS love to others. We love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). It is not just a check list. "oops. I need to work on my patience today". The fruit of the Spirit--or the "evidence" of the Spirit at work--is something that comes as we grow in we put to death selfishness and self-centeredness. The Spirit at work within us is shown as we are earnestly pursuing Christ, listening to His voice, reading His Word, and seeking to love others as Christ does. We can't conjure up (and maintain) a life like Corinthians on our own strength. But that's the beauty of Christ. He knows that. :) It is the reason Christ died for us--because we can't save ourselves and we can't make ourselves perfect. But we can believe Him at His word, putting our trust, our hope, our life, and our salvation in the hands of Christ. 

So, friends, pursue Christ. Walk by the Spirit. Choose love--real, selfless love. Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when it seems like that person is unable to love you. And on the days where you stumble, look to Christ. Because "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" ( Phil. 1:6). By the power of His Spirit and for His glory!

In Christ, 

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