Below is a devotional I wrote this week which Rob had suggested i post to generate a discussion on love. As a Christian, I not only write political articles, but I write Christian devotionals. A devotional is a short exposition on a particular verse from the bible, and hopefully how it applies to our life today. Hope all is well with everyone.
The Choice of Love, Part One – The Soul Versus the Spirit
1Corinthians 13: 4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Life is about choices. We can look back over our lives with regret or rejoicing at the decisions we make; usually it is a mixture of both. Of all the facets of being inescapably human, romantic love remains one of the most confusing and daunting we will face. That is because it is one area that we still tend to listen more to worldly philosophy than Godly wisdom. We are inclined to Oprah-ize love or wonder what Dr. Phil says, instead of what God says. The reason we seem to get it wrong so often is that we treat love as strictly an emotion, a product of our soul. But love is also a product of our spirit even though we give it more emotional power than it rightly deserves. In fact, one just needs to look at the way we speak about love, to see the emotional control that we give it. We do not say that we have love or even feel love. No; we “fall into” love; as if it some sort of bear trap clasping around our ankles not letting us go. Love is not quicksand beloved. As with everything, God explains for us in the bible, exactly what love is supposed to be. Remember that it is the design of God that we are not to be alone. In just the second chapter of the bible, God declares this fact:
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." – Genesis 2:18
So, here is the apostle Paul explaining what love is in 1Corinthians. One of the most quoted and least applied set of verses in the bible. Note first of all that the statements are all declarative. Paul does not say, “love feels kind” or “love does not feel like boasting.” That is because while love is definitely emotional, there is still a choice to be made. Love is supposed to be as much a conscious decision as it is an emotional feeling. Seemingly however, we leave it all up to the whims of our emotions. We let our soul dictate to our spirit.
God is love and by choosing to be love ourselves, we are choosing to be more Christ-like. First, you must choose to be patient. It is certainly not in our nature to be patient people. We live in a microwave society where we want things done, and usually we want them done yesterday. How many disagreements in relationships are caused by impatience? Now think for a minute of how patient God has been with you. Secondly, you must choose to be kind. Sounds simple enough but it really does go against our inherent human nature, doesn’t it? Why? Because to be truly kind, you must deny self and we are essentially selfish creatures. Society reinforces this selfishness with it’s, “what’s in it for me” mentality. Yet if you want to experience true love as God intended and not some emotional trap you will “fall into”, then Paul says you need to start with patience and kindness. It is not surprising to see these attributes reiterated in another of Paul’s letters:
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12
Not only do you need to have patience and kindness, but you should be clothed in them. They should be a part of who you are. As patient as God has been with you, He has been equally kind as well. As we strive to be more Christ-like, we start with kindness and patience. This is how we start to choose to love.
In the same verse however, Paul also states three things that love is not. It is no surprise that these three things are often stumbling blocks in our lives as well. As such, they also creep into our relationships and can prevent true love from being realized. That is because as difficult as it may be, love is not envious. True envy denies what God has already done for you and given to you. It usurps the sovereignty of God by desiring something that He has decided to give to someone else and not you. In a relationship it robs the joy that you should have together. It speaks to the motive of the heart. A heart in love is happy at the blessings another receives. It does not secretly desire them.
Love is also neither boastful nor proud. Once again, being proud or boastful is taking the focus off of God and placing it on ourselves. True love keeps God first in everything it does. The world teaches us that the other person “completes us.” Not so; God completes us! In order for God to have the supreme place in any relationship there can be no pride; no boasting:
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. – Proverbs 8:13
Boasting is arrogant behavior. God hates pride and arrogance. You cannot be Christ-like and exemplify these qualities. You cannot be love and embody these traits. The end result is what is desirable. A relationship where there is no boasting and no pride, keeps God on the throne. It keeps God in control. If man builds the relationship, man will have to maintain it. If God builds the relationship, God will maintain it. One just needs to look at the divorce rate in this country to see what happens when man builds it. Does this mean we are perfect beings; never boasting or prideful? Never envious; always kind and patient? Of course not because we are infallibly human. These are the decisions though that we must make if we are to strive for what God says love is. It is what we should be working on becoming.
Paul will go on with more about what love is but it starts with this often quoted verse. The foundation of love is patience and kindness, never being envious, boastful or proud. These are things that grate against us as human beings and our sinful nature. In order to be these things, we need to be sacrificial in nature; sacrificing our fleshly desires in order to be more Christ-like. Poets and philosophers have spent eternity draping a shroud of mystery over love. We constantly lament why one romantic relationship does not work out versus another. Attaching little hearts and cherubs and gooseflesh to love. Stripping the spirit-side of love out and leaving only the soul, the flesh. Love then becomes something to over-analyze, emotionally. A deadly mixture for humans. The result is a series of poor choices where love becomes further shrouded in ambiguity and further away from what God intended. Is it emotional? Of course. But once you get past the butterflies in the stomach and the attraction you are left with choices. Life is always about choices. Love is not something you feel your way into. It is something you choose your way into. You must choose to be kind and patient. You must choose to not be envious, boastful or proud. You must also choose to expect this in return. Too often we compromise and sell ourselves short. We settle for less than God intended for us. We actually trade in the persons that truly represent Godly love, for the gooseflesh and butterflies. Or we allow failed love to wound us so grievously that we build defenses up around our heart, letting no one come close to who we really are; for fear of being hurt again. There is no magical potion or balm to heal past wounds. There is no prescribed time frame for healing. God is always at our right hand, ready to heal, ready to help us move on, ready to help us become more like Him; more like love. The choice is always ours.