LOVE IS TRICKY...
is it a feeling you can't control? Does it come over you without any rhyme or reason? Is it something deeper, more controlled, more intentional?
The Bible certainly makes a big deal about it.
The New Testament uses the noun 116 times and the verb 147 times. It makes bold claims like 1 John 3:14 " a person who has no love is still dead." and 1 John 4:7 "love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God."
In one of the more famous passages the Bible tells us that love is the most essential ingredient of our lives. The Message version paraphrases it like this:
"if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love." -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
WITHOUT LOVE WE ARE BANKRUPT
Yet what is it? Is it riding your bike to work? Is it giving spare change to a homeless person? Well in the very next verse it tells us what true love is like. It says,
"Love is kind"
This is the biblical definition of love and it is a helpful measuring stick for distinguishing genuine believers from the clanging hypocrites. It provides a sound defense against those hate-groups who call themselves Christians.
I asked my facebook friends to share stories of kindness. One of my friends Chrisi posted that she still remembers a day 12 years ago when she was going through a tough time and a friend of hers brought her fresh homemade bread. Marty, another friend of mine, posted that an unknown man in his last church gave him a car when he learned Marty needed one for work.
Some kind action feels small to us, like making food, or buying lunch. Others are more of a sacrifice like donating a vehicle. But to the recipient all, kind actions feel big.
Unkind actions are big too. They last with us a long time. I can still remember Mrs. MacNamee losing her temper with me in kindergarten and squeezing my face forcibly between her hands. I would bet most of us have a memory of a teacher either being kind or unkind. Funny how those moments were short-lived and yet they mark us for our whole lives.
That inspires me to be kinder.
We all want to be kinder! In fact, my city recently declared themselves a "Compassionate City" and Mayor McGinn of Seattle publicly signed the Charter for Compassion. You can read about it on their website. www.compassionateseattle.org
BUT HOW DO WE DEFINE KINDNESS AND COMPASSION?
In our post-modern culture we have been told no one has a right to tell others how to live. We have been told every claim at universal over-arching truth is simply a power play and should be dismissed. So then who is to say what is kindness and what is not?
While it is true that some truth claims are power plays, not all truth claims are power plays. In fact, to say that all truth claims are power plays is a power play in itself. We need truth claims to function as individuals and as a society.
When it comes to defining kindess, compassion, and love, I think the Bible deserves a fresh look. Here is a book written in three different languages by over 30 different authors across different continents over the span of thousands of years and yet its theme is unified and clear: loving-kindness is most clearly seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The New Testament book of Titus puts it this way, "Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone."
According to the New Testament, kindness is most clearly seen in the saving act of God when he sent Jesus to wash away our sins. And God extended this kindness and love to us when we were undeserving. He did this because he is Kind. Or, as 1 John tells us... because He is love!
This is the kind of love our world needs. It is love that extends kindess to others regardless of whether they deserve it or not, regardless of whether they can repay you or not. It is a self-sacrificing love, a cross-bearing love, and as such, a transformative love.
I am thankful to say that such loving-kindness is alive and well in Seattle and in Issaquah. During my sermon on Sunday I asked the congregation to share if they have received such kindness lately. The stories they shared were inspiring. You can listen to it yourself. http://www.somaissaquah.org/media/sermons/love-is-kind/
Will you set aside a minute to read Titus 3 for yourself? Can you insert yourself into the text? It is then that the kindness and love of God does a work on our heart. In fact,
IT WORKS ON EVERY HEART
red and yellow, black and white we are precious in his sight.
How will you let his kindness go through you to others? Who will you love? What will you do?