Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Love

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

 1 Corinthians 13: 2b -7
if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.  
3 If I give all I possess to the poor
and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing.
 4 Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. 5 It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily
angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. 7
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.

You might think love is a warm and fuzzy wonderfully easy thing to talk about. But I wonder what would it look like to love like Jesus? That does not sound so easy to me - but see what you think. I guess we then must decide if it is to hard and to continue as we are.  Or might we believe that through the work of the Holy Spirit we could some how grab ahold of Jesus' examples of how to love and begin to put them into practice in our life.

First we all know John 3:16 how God loves the world and send his son. That whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life. So in this one Jesus is willing to be sent by the father, to leave the glory of heaven to come be with us. This would be like me some how crawling into a petri dish and trying to save some damaged single celled creatures. How is that even possible? Jesus did not just tap on the glass of our little world and try and get us to swim in the direction of a better way. He fully enters into our world. Much as I love christmas songs and carols they paint a pretty picture of a very plastic Jesus. You know the baby born in a manger. Mary is always looking radient after going through child birth in barn far from home with no mid wife.  Ok so I can't save the single celled critters in the petri dish. How might I follow the example of love that Jesus sets for us in John 3:16

He leaves what is familiar, he leaves his place of honor and power. His rightful place to go from there to be with us. I can see from this example that Jesus was willing to go. I can also see that he does not go to the place of power or honor but to a carpenter and his young bride. Was it poor planning on the part of God that the rulers of the day called for a big census of the people that sent very pregnant Mary and Joseph on a long 80 mile journey. That is probably at least 4 days of walking or donkey riding, probably longer to avoid pregnancy complications. What was God thinking? How is that love, and come on they could not even get room at the inn. Now be honest how many times have you been mad at God because you prayed that he give you that close parking spot. Or why couldn't God just give you that winning lotto ticket - common God give me a break. Here I have served you and your people and all I get is big hassle from the folks.  You have sweet Mary who says willingly to the angel “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Then she is left to deal with skeptical family and friends. Here reputation is all but ruined. Joseph could have had her stoned and considered to put her away quietly.  I don't think this experience was all wonderful. It had to be hard to have family and friends accuse you of things like lying, impurity, unfaithfulness to Joseph and to God. In recent weeks the words have come out of my mouth "why does it have to be so hard?" I don't know but God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life has been a whole lot harder than I imagined as a baby Christian.

So Jesus grows up and begins his earthly ministry. He is traveling around the country with a bunch of fisher men, a tax collector, and assorted other ordinary folks. Hes not hanging out with the privileged. He is most often found modeling the kingdom for his disciples or telling parable stories that people had to try and figure out. Most of the time you find him with the poor, the sinners, the demon possessed. He is teaching and feeding big crowds. The lame walk, the dead rise, the blind see, and captives are set free. Now this is love to walk among the broken and bring them hope, healing, food, wisdom, forgiveness and a way to be made right with a holy God. I see Jesus going to the broken, to the lost, to the seekers. I see him frustrated by the religious folks as they accuse him in Matthew 12 of driving out demons by the power of the devil. They want him to give them a sign that he is really the Messiah. You gotta love his answer. "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!" Makes me wonder if we might be off track a bit to go chasing after meetings promising miraculous signs and wonders. As believers do we really need to go chasing them? My bible it says they should be following me. Don't believe me check out Mark 16:17 I don't mean to step on toes but what  is the point of going from meeting after meeting if we don't some how make a difference for the Kingdom. Don't get me wrong I am all for corporate worship and I love to praise the Lord.  Jesus took 12 guys and started a radical revolution of demonstrating kingdom life and principles in how we live and work and respond to one another. Take a look at Amos.
21“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.
22Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! 

Oh yeah there we are back to that j is for justice thing. Makes me wonder if loving like Jesus is about bringing justice, mercy, healing, help, forgiveness to the broken, the lonely the dying, the hopeless. 
Loving like Jesus is maybe not about me getting all the blessings that I think I should have as a Kings kid. Maybe those gifts that he gives me are not just for my own pleasure, entertainment and comfort. Maybe I'm supposed to use them to bless others. 

Did it ever occur to you that while Jesus walked on this earth that he did not amass land, houses, animals, servants, clothes,  an education or money. He was not about collecting stuff - he was focused on collecting people. 
Ok so this makes me squirm a bit - and it probably should make me feel a bit uncomfortable. What is it that I really love and spend my life, time and resources on. Don't just say Jesus. If most of us were really honest we have to admit there are a lot of things that vie for the throne of our heart and the time of our day.  I'm not saying we should not enjoy the blessing that we have. I don't think God is some cosmic kill joy. 

 Ecclesiastes 5:19
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.

1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Finally the cross. Jesus willingly suffered and died. His body was broken and beaten so that we might be healed and our relationship with God be restored because justice was satisfied. 
As Americans we avoid suffering. Why does God allow suffering?

The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word "love", and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. "Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest "well pleased"  - CS Lewis 

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some "disinterested", because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of his love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the "lord of terrible aspect", is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, nor the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.  CS Lewis ~The Problem with Pain

If you need an example of what love is... look at Jesus. 1 John 4:10 "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

God loves us even when we don't accept or return that love. Do I just love the easy to love people? Can I, like Jesus, love the people that make things difficult, who treat me scornfully, who call me names. 

Dear Lord, 
I pray that right now you help each reader to expand their definition of love. I pray that you would be active in helping us see how you loved and to begin with your help to love others with that Jesus kind of love. Holy Spirit come now and show us some thing we can do as we go through our day to love the world around us. Help us to love people till they ask us why?

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