Tag Archives: Love

Five Reasons Why LOVE is the Greatest

Sometimes ideas can be baffling! And (sorry if this offends you!) the Bible itself can be the source of some pretty head-scratching concepts.

There are many reasons for this: authors were speaking to the people, cultures and issues of their day; language translation can provide extra challenges; and maybe the biggest of them all, the Bible is dealing with spiritual concepts (which can seem like foolishness to those who are outside of relationship with God).

LoveOne idea that was hard for me to understand for years is found in the final words of the Apostle Paul when wrapping up an amazing dialog on the topic of love captured in 1 Corinthians 13. He said:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Why in the world is love the greatest? I suspect most people of faith would look at these three words (and their huge concepts) — faith, hope and love — and conclude that faith is the greatest. Isn’t that what following God is all about?

While you might want to add to this list, here are five reasons I’ve found that point toward why love is the greatest.

Love is the essence of:

1. God Himself: God IS love

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

2. God’s promise: we ARE loved

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

3. Our worship: we are to RESPOND to God in love

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

4. Our mission: we are to ACT in love

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30)

5. Our identity: we are to be KNOWN by our love

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Why is love the greatest? It is only through love that our faith finds its true expression. And the opposite is also true: Whenever something is less than loving, its origin is not the good news of Jesus.

While the Bible may contain some concepts that are challenging to understand, this is quite clear.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.
For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen,
cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

And this…

” The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
(Galatians 5:6).

These challenge me greatly, because like you, I’m a broken person who fails at this “loving” thing all the time. Envy, hate, jealousy and rage are all part of my nature that I must reject daily, even as I press on to grow in the likeness of Jesus. But because of his grace toward me — and you — he makes this pathway of love possible.

Let’s continue growing in love, even as we desire to grow in faith. It’s our only way forward.

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Love at First Sight

When you first encounter someone, what’s your normal reaction?

For me, I’ve been realizing that my reactions have often been far less than positive. With too much regularity I’ve tended to be:

  • Indifferent — really not caring much about this new person who’s come across my path.
  • Critical — analyzing them from a negative perspective, and usually finding fault.

EyesI was caught by this reality when a particular story about Jesus was brought to my attention a couple months ago. It’s the story about a rich young man who comes to Jesus seeking an answer about eternal life (you can read it here). While I’d read this many times before, I’d missed one very important insight about how Jesus saw this man.

In the story we learn that this guy was very wealthy and had been living quite righteously as well. But we discover that he wasn’t willing to part with his wealth in order to follow after God. Jesus discerned this and challenged him to let go of the idol he’d made of his riches. But he doesn’t — and the story ends tragically with the man, in great disappointment, turning and walking away. He just couldn’t let go of this idol. It was more important to him than following Jesus.

But the part of the story I’d always missed was how Jesus felt about this man before he challenged him. It says:

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

What?! Jesus, you’re God. You know this guy is going to reject you. You know he’s going to put the idol of his riches in front of any relationship he’ll have with you. Why didn’t you turn and walk away from him?

Somehow, Jesus, even knowing this encounter wasn’t going to end well, loved this rich young man anyway. This newly discovered reality has really tweaked me — in a positive way.

Over the past months I’ve been asking myself a couple hard questions, especially when I’m in settings where I’m about to meet someone new:

  • Will I love this person first, before they give me any “reason” to love them?
  • Will I love this person even if they seem to reject me?

I don’t have a perfect record on this — but it has truly made a difference. I’ve found that when I choose to love first it influences my words, my body language, and any responses I might give. It shifts my outlook entirely.

And even if an initial encounter with someone ends less than positively, hopefully it won’t be because I was an idiot. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll still know that I respect them, I care about them, and that my love for them as a person is genuine.

I’m writing this as a challenge and reminder to myself: I can choose to love at first sight.

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More than Voting

Here’s a good reminder for 2012…from over 150 years ago.

“The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls — the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.” Henry David Thoreau, July 4, 1854

Simply stated…

Our country’s destiny depends more on our daily choices than who we cast our vote for once every four years.

I think the Apostle Paul would have agreed with Thoreau on that point. While he probably wasn’t reflecting on voting when he wrote to the people of Rome, in Romans 12 he lays out a civics lesson for the ages. Here’s what he says (in part) it should look like when Christ-followers are good citizens.

  • Love must be sincere — no hypocrisy…no platitudes…love truly.
  • Hate what is evil — don’t play footsies with something that will kill you.
  • Honor one another above yourselves — put others first.
  • Keep your spiritual fervor — love God passionately.
  • Practice hospitality — my neighbors matter…all of them.
  • Live in harmony with one another — unity is essential…it’s worth fighting for.
  • Do not be proud — maybe others’ points of view (even political!) have real validity.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good — this isn’t just the goal, this is possible with God.

What would our world look like if we dropped ourselves into the street every morning embodying these qualities?

So let’s vote…then let’s do what’s more important: live our lives in humble, evil-resisting, passionate, love. Every day.

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The Making of a Dad

On Father’s Day Eve I’m reflecting on my dad-hood. 20 years ago I was blessed with the first of three incredible kids. What a ride! Like many families, we’ve experienced heart-wrenching twists and turns in our collective story, yet maintain more parental pride than should be allowed.

I’m also reflecting on a single chapter in Scripture that, to me, summarizes healthy fathering more than any other. It contains at least six traits that any dad would want to have who desires to build rock solid kids. It’s the first chapter of the second letter written by the Apostle Paul to his “true son in the faith,” Timothy.

Check out these traits that characterize Paul’s relationship with Timothy, and consider how they might be lived out as we lead our kids:

  1. He prayed for his son. 2 Tim. 1:3 “Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” That’s where it begins, with the realization that my kids need a Savior — and I’m not him! As we lift our kids to God in prayer, we’re reminding ourselves that he is the true answer for their greatest needs.
  2. He was motivated by love. 2 Tim. 1:4 “I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.” My pride, my anger, or my need for control are all insufficient motivators when it comes to seeking positive life-change in my kids. They know when love is absent. But thankfully they also know when love is present — even when I don’t get it completely right. When kids know they are loved it makes all the difference.
  3. He was spiritually affirming. 2 Tim. 1:5 “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” How many times do I miss opportunities to communicate what my kids are doing right? It’s so critical that I not only see their growth, but that I tell them what I’m seeing. Their self-perception will be formed by what is reflected back to them by the people they most look up to.
  4. He imparted blessing. 2 Tim. 1:6 “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” I have the opportunity as a parent to bless my kids and to literally deposit God’s gifts in them.
  5. He led from the front. 2 Tim. 1:8 “With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.” Am I living in such a way that I can invite my kids to join with me? Paul reminds me that I have to be a “do as I do” kind of dad, and that the most effective forms of instruction always include modeling.
  6. He taught about Jesus. 2 Tim. 1:9 “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time — to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” If Paul felt the need to remind Timothy — who was a pastor — about the grace of Jesus, how much more should I be reminding my kids?

Whether you’re a dad or not, these traits can be embodied by all who want to make a lasting and positive difference in the next generation. Every kid deserves someone — a dad, mom, uncle, aunt, or a big brother or sister — who, like Paul, will love them, share life with them deeply, and show them how Jesus can make all the difference.

My desire is that with God’s grace, I’ll do those very things even better in my 21st year of being a dad. My kids are hoping so, too!

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Do You Trust Me?

I’m reading a fantastic book, You Lost Me, by David Kinnaman. It deals with why young Christians are leaving church and rethinking faith. It’s well thought through, crisply written, and deals with issues of real importance.

When discussing how twenty-somethings view authority, Kinnaman made this observation:

“Everybody has an opinion, and it’s hard to know who is trustworthy.”

He was highlighting the fact that in an info-overloaded world, trust becomes the scale we use to weigh the worth of opinions. The greater we trust someone, the weightier their words.

Trust is what makes us believable. It is the foundation upon which we can build relationship and true community. Trust is worth the work it takes to build and retain.

So how can we become trustworthy people?

Scripture provides an interesting perspective on this. Paul, who wrote a great deal of the Bible, was writing to a group of Christ-followers who had been trying to prove their trustworthiness to God and others by following rules (the Law of Moses in particular). Paul was really pressing them to understand that rule-following isn’t what matters. In Galatians 5:14, he wrote, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Then he goes on to break down what “loving your neighbor” would look like. In 5:22-23 he says, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Think about how each of these things would build trustworthiness — and how its absence would crush it.

  • Love — accepting others fully.
  • Joy — having real contentment even in difficult situations.
  • Peace — being a refuge in the midst of a storm.
  • Patience — refusing to rush to judgment.
  • Kindness — considering the plight of another and acting accordingly.
  • Goodness — doing what’s right rather than what’s easy or popular.
  • Faithfulness — being a person of my word.
  • Gentleness — being an emotionally safe friend for others.
  • Self-control — choosing to say “no” to relationship killing words, thoughts and actions.

“Trust me, I’m a doctor” doesn’t cut it anymore. And it doesn’t work for politicians, teachers, bloggers or religious leaders either. Perhaps that’s why people so highly value the opinions of their friends. They’re the ones who have actually earned some trust.

Let’s live as friends — and in an era where opinions abound, let the fruit of our lives prove that we can be trusted regarding things that truly matter.

(Photo credit: Benjamin Earwicker)
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