“… prophecies, they will cease;…. tongues, they will be stilled…knowledge, it will pass…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Yesterday I wrote that because the church has become loveless, it is failing around us. I gave real examples of how this plays out in our churches, across denominational lines, across cultures, across the world. It is clear from the feedback that this is a message that people identify with; it was also clear that there are a lot of people that have been hurt by their time with the church. I love God’s people and it is not my intent to tear down any person or church. I don’t want to be a spotlight that shines into the dark exposing, rather I have tried to hold up the mirror of the Word of God and ask myself and others the question: Do I really love?
I started this journey based on one simple question: Do I want to be known as a ‘man of love’ or as a ‘man of faith’? The answer is clear that love is supreme, but do I really value love? Is my life built on the knowledge of love or is it built on the intimate experience of my being with God? Knowledge takes study while love is learned or gained through interacting with the highest God.
There is a very real risk that instead of internalizing these scriptures, I will instead build myself up for what I have learned. It is very easy for me to become an “expert in the knowledge of love” condemning all around me for their inadequate understanding and castigating churches for their loveless condition, and each time I tear someone down, I build my own self up. So what do I do with this knowledge?
“We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3.
If I don’t internalize these scriptures and let the Holy Spirit transform me through the renewing of my mind, I will be and become the very thing that I don’t want to be: a self-righteous hypocrite that looks down on everyone else. Love builds up while knowledge puffs up. If I don’t let the Holy Spirit transform me with love there is something very wrong: I am not letting the Holy Spirit influence my life. If I am not letting God influence me and change me, then I am falling under the influence of the great deceiver ….whether I see it or not. I repeatedly keep coming back….the change has to start with me.
The message of the Cross is the message of love: “For God so Loved the World”, “God demonstrated his own love for us”. This message of love transforms us.
When the Apostle John was a young man, he was known for his temper… he and his brother were called the ‘Sons of Zebedee” or the sons of thunder. When the Samaritan town refused to welcome them, he wanted to nuke the town to ashes; fortunately, they asked Jesus for permission first! Roll forward 60 years and John is at the end of his life living his final years out in Ephesus. All the way until the end John continued to preach. In his final years, he was fairly frail and would have to be carried to the front of the congregation and held up while he preached. His sermon was always the same (to the point that it frustrated people around him!) and his sermons were short. His message? “Little Children Love One Another”. How did John go from wanting to nuke the town to “love one another?” He spent time with Jesus, the Holy Spirit transformed him and he became a different man.
The question for me today is how do I internalize these scriptures on Love? How do I let the Holy Spirit transform me into a man of love? These are the questions to wrestle with.