“The Greatest Commandment is______________.”
I’m certain if I asked for a show of hands of those who can finish this verse…we would all have our hands in the air. Yes…the answer is LOVE THE LORD GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE OTHERS.
If you have spent any time reading God’s Word, you are undoubtedly familiar with the “love chapter” found in I Corinthians 13. In this chapter, God teaches us the most valuable life lesson we can learn—what true love really is. God teaches us to “put on love” in Colossians 3:14. That means we make a conscious choice to love God and others and to walk in this love. It is a choice we make every moment of every day of our lives.
We use the word love in so many different ways. We love ice cream, we love our pets, we love the Cardinals, we love going on vacation and, of course, we love our families. Now that we are in the month of February, we are inundated with “symbols” of love—cupids, hearts, poems, cards, boxes of candy, balloons, etc. But, we need to know how God, the author of true love, defines what love really is—that is the only love that will produce eternal changes.
In 1 Corinthians 13, God teaches us how true love should be displayed in our everyday lives. (I’m going to focus on verses 4–5).
I Corinthians 13:4–5 says “Love is patient (it endures, shows self-restraint, not giving way to anger), love is kind (is generous, having concern for others without expectation of praise in return). It does not envy (does not resent someone else’s possessions/qualities), it does not boast (always talking about one’s own possessions, abilities, achievements) it is not prideful (displaying a high opinion of oneself). It does not dishonor (disgrace, discredit, humiliate) others, it is not self-seeking (putting our own needs/welfare before others), it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs (to keep bringing up past behaviors/actions for the sake of shaming them).
If you will notice…God spends a lot of this verse teaching us what love ISN’T. Why? The list of “do nots” has something in common—they are qualities/traits that put our focus on us not God. In order for us to display God’s true love, we must first get our focus off ourselves and put it squarely on God.
First, love is to be patient. I’m sure if we are all honest, this is sometimes hard to display in our everyday lives. It is an area that God continues to grow me. I pray for patience…and then someone cuts in front of me in a line of traffic and that patience that I have been praying for God to cultivate in me somehow immediately flies out the window. Why? Because I took my eyes off God and put them on me instead. I made a choice to display my “me-first” attitude instead of God’s love. Being first in traffic has no eternal value. The opportunity to pray for that person may have lasting benefits if instead of reacting with anger, I react with prayer for their salvation, safety and that God would bless them and show Himself to them today. That action would bring a lot more peace into my life instead of frustration and bitterness.
Second, love is to be kind. When you have a moment to spend with someone, do they walk away feeling blessed, encouraged, uplifted and genuinely loved because of the time they just spent with you? Did they sense a true concern and interest in what is going on in their lives or did they just listen to you grumble, gripe and complain about what is going on in yours? I pray daily that even in the few brief moments I might have with someone that they will sense the presence of Jesus and see the difference He makes in my life. Genuine godly love and kindness will draw people to Jesus. Let our actions and our words always be kind, tender and full of love and mercy.
Third, to show God’s genuine love, we must not be envious, boastful, proud or self-seeking. When we display the characteristics on that list, it is a sad commentary that says we want people to notice us—not Jesus in us.
Fourth, these next two may be the hardest for me. God’s love is not easily angered…and it keeps NO record of wrongs. Whew…sometimes that can be so hard for me! I can honestly say it takes quite a bit to get me angered, but it’s not a pretty sight when I finally get there! The words I speak and the “looks” I can give definitely do not let Jesus shine through me. I know if I struggle with it, there are others reading this who are shaking their heads thinking, “Yep, I can relate.” It brings to mind the saying, “whatever is inside a bottle will spill out when that bottle is tipped over.” What a true statement that is of our lives! Anger is definitely a heart issue—what is in my heart will come spilling out when someone pushes against me.
I am a “just give me the bottom line” kind of person and so I love the book of James because he does just that. In James 1:19–20, God tells us “my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and SLOW to become angry, (WHY???) because human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.” You see, producing God’s righteousness in my life becomes easier when my heart is right, and my focus is on God—not me. I NEVER want to be a deterrent to someone who doesn’t know Jesus. No temper tantrum is worth hurting my testimony about Jesus in me. I want people to see the difference He makes in me—and being angry about issues that don’t mean a thing in the realm of eternity makes it hard for them to see the difference He is making.
I feel like there is so much hate, anger, and division in our world today, and sadly even among believers, that I have to ask—are we (am I) making an impact for Christ in our world? Are we (am I) a living, breathing testimony of Jesus’ love? Or is the world hard pressed to tell the difference in our lives based on what they witness daily in our words, actions, and the love of Christ we display? I pray it is not the latter. We must continually grow by being in God’s Word daily. If we are going to imitate Christ and mirror His love to those around us, then we must know intimately how much He loves us. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to impart wisdom, understanding and discernment as you read about God’s love. Then as you move about the world around you, let your life be a demonstration of that love. May our goal and our challenge this year be to love others to a saving relationship with Jesus. Let’s make a true eternal difference in our world.