February is usually the coldest month for us in Central Ontario; though friends and lovers do have an opportunity to share a little warmth halfway through on Valentine’s Day.
Love is a pretty central theme to Jesus’s teachings and example. Not only was love commanded but it was set out as the primary factor for the discerning of true believers.
In our time and culture the word love is thrown around pretty loosely. It can be used in the context of food, art, momentary intimacy, music and almost anywhere else. So, as Christ followers, how do we know love?
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 gives the following tests (as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message):
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
It takes supernatural help to love like this. It is the kind of love all of us would love to receive. In honest moments we know this is extremely difficult to give. Yet I believe it is the gold standard for love that all of us should strive for.
Paul ends this chapter with these words: “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
He has linked three commands together. It diminishes his meaning if we pull them apart. They call us to love as God loves by making sure we stay close to the source of this perfect love.
“Trust steadily” requires daily intimacy with our Lord and Saviour Jesus. “Hope unswervingly” comes from living in the atmosphere of hope we can be surrounded with as we experience God’s faithfulness from day to day and generation to generation. “Love extravagantly” calls us to love as the Triune God has always loved us. It is a love that is unconditional, unending and completely void of self benefit. Further, it is a love that takes no account of potential hurts and betrayals. It is love in its purest form.
Love God with our everything: heart, soul, mind and strength. Love our neighbour as ourselves. These are the greatest commandments and prescriptions for renewal.
Renewal of self and renewal of community will lead to renewal of our world. Thy Kingdom come.