Love Letter

1 Corinthians 13: 4-5

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.

How great is my God, how beautiful and loving? I will tell you how amazing and fabulous my Father is.

This morning I called a friend to check on him. Yesterday he received his second vaccination shot and he recently pulled his hamstring and pinched a nerve in his back. I know some folks do not feel great the day after their second shot, so I just called to check on him.

We must recognize that people have been under enormous stress, accumulating stress, over the last 12 months. Sometimes that stress bubbles over. It did today and I was the unfortunate recipient of that pent up worry and stress. No one wants to be in my position but better me than someone else. Why? Because you and I have something within us that is up to the challenge. It is the love of God. Jesus showed up in this conversation and loved the speaker. Love didn’t hang up on him, it was patient and kind. It did not consider its own benefit, or mine for that matter. Love cared about the hurting soul who was lashing out.

I was planning on writing on comfort today, but I realized that what is needed is love. Love is the comfort we need as well as that gracious balm that the whole world needs today. I say my Father is great because He showed up and spoke love even as my heart was hurting. I want to share another thing though. Here is an immediate response by God to love on me too.

I had just finished emailing my good friend, Rene, saying that I better write on love for today’s Word of the Day. I wasn’t sure what verse to use and was rolling a few through my mind. I went to to look for a verse. The landing page for Bible Gateway opened with a Verse of the Day. Guess what that verse was. You see it at the beginning of today’s Word of the Day. Look at how the Father provided for me. He knew all this was going to happen and that I was going to need a love verse, so, He provided one. It was a message from heaven, and it met my need as well as communicated the Father’s love and care for me. Take this back one more step. He had to nudge someone at Bible Gateway to select that verse for today’s verse. Thank God that person listened to the Father. They probably do not even know that God was doing something in the selection of that verse. God truly is great.

So, the rest of the story – I have to let God be the master of this situation going forward because when things like this happen there are seeds planted. Are they seeds of offense or forgiveness? Are they seeds of humility or embarrassment? For my part, God says, love “is not provoked,” and “does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.” That means I cannot carry negative seeds forward. During these very challenging times, we are going to have to give people space. We need to be understanding and forgiving. We must let love speak in our place. Is it easy? Not if you do it in your might but if you let Jesus show up and show his love, it’s okay. Jesus understands how stressed people are. He wants to help heal bruised and injured hearts. Bless the Lord for His kind mercies. Bless the Lord.

God is . . . joyful in righteousness

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

What do you think of when you hear the word unrighteousness? At some level we hear “wrongness” don’t we? Something is not right. One of the definitions of righteousness means essentially that we are in our right place with God. It has to do with where we are in relation to Him. We are righteous in Christ who has placed us in right standing with God. The other use of this word is the one we probably think of more often. It refers to our personal adherence to a code of behavior or laws. When we hear someone is unrighteous we tend to think of them as being wicked. That is going a bit far but certainly one who is wicked is not in their proper place with God and is not following the social mores or laws.

When I hear the word “righteous” I think of Jesus. I have hung my hat on 2 Corinthians 5: 21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our standing with God is assured. It is not earned. Jesus gave it to us in His sacrifice and it would be repugnant to try to earn it. We are in our right position with God because Jesus bought it with his blood. Of course, our God will not rejoice in our being unrighteous or not in the spot Jesus bought for us. He is not satisfied with us not being in Jesus and standing in the grace Jesus wrought for us. If we do not accept who we are in Christ, the Father cannot rejoice. He can only grieve.

There was an exchange made at that altar of the cross. The sin of the world was laid on the lamb in exchange for the righteousness of God. All of my sin and yours was put on the altar so that we could arise in Christ Jesus in the glory and majesty of His victory and righteousness. Our only task is to intertwine ourselves in the love of Jesus. We put our wrongness on his rightness and his rightness wins every time. The Father is glorified and made joyful when we immerse ourselves in the light of Jesus. He rejoices when we rely upon 2 Corinthians 5: 21 and claim Jesus’ victory bigger than our failures. He is happy when we raise Jesus up above our self-aware shortcomings. We are right in Christ and that is the only way we can ever be righteous. Love rejoices when we abide in love.

God . . . is forgiving

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Are you kidding me with this? Love does not count the wrongs done to it? The person who loves does not take into account the things a person does to them. Don’t get this wrong, though. This does not meant they are doormats letting people walk all over them. No, it’s just that they forgive and continue in love. They may not hang out with the offender anymore; they may know not to trust them, but they do not judge those people. They just keep on loving. That is amazing but that is what love does.

But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23: 34).  Jesus prayed this prayer for the people who were crucifying him. I have always found this passage remarkable. Wouldn’t you want to pray a hailstorm down on them? I would but Jesus was born of love. His Father is love so I guess this is the heritage of love that God passed down to Jesus.

You know, we have talked a lot about self-centeredness versus others-centeredness in this discussion of Chapter 13. I think God’s selflessness is at the root of many of the characteristics of love that we have seen from this chapter. God is forgiving, doesn’t take into account the wrongs we deal Him because He is not absorbed with self. He isn’t taking account of all the bad things we do to Him. He is looking after our interests. He is concerned with our needs and even our bad acts because often those actions are a reflection of our own hurts. I think He worries more about the injuries which are causing us to act out than the behaviors themselves. He wants to speed healing to us.

Maybe that is a bit of how we should look at people who do us wrong. Maybe there is a way for us to react with compassion instead of anger. We certainly do not have to be victims but we don’t have to be enemies either. We can pray for them with a clean heart like Jesus prayed and mostly, we just don’t have to keep score anymore.

God is . . . not provoked

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked.

How would you like it every person who loves you loved you so much that they could not be provoked? That is an amazing thought. Some people have a concept of God being an angry God. All I can say to that is, “They don’t know Him.” The Word says that He is not provoked to anger and I believe this to be true because I think I have tested the theory sufficiently. The mere fact that some of us are still on the planet instead of vaporized speaks to God’s unwavering patience.

God is not reactionary. He decided to love us long before we were born to the earth. Furthermore, He knew what He was getting back in the beginning. It’s not like our shortcomings are some big surprise to Him. He loved us and chose us before He sent Jesus to the cross. Consider this for a moment. When faced with the decision of sending His beloved to the earth to die for you and I He considered what He would get; He looked into the future and saw us and sent Him anyway. So, how can He be provoked now? He is not surprised though He may grieve a little from time to time but He also appointed an intercessor for us who would pray without ceasing. That intercessor is Jesus.

No matter what we do; regardless of the boneheaded things we may say, our Father loves us infinitely. He loves us with a love so pure that it shines and saves. It contains His glory and His radiance and it is this that, more than anything else, He wishes to rain on us. He just wants to love His kids with an active love.

So, don’t worry if you blew it yesterday. You did not provoke Him to anger. I can promise you that. And if you make a monster blunder tomorrow, He has already considered it and decided to love you unequivocally anyway. Can I tell you the truth? Your sins are not big enough to provoke the Father. I am not saying they make Him happy but the blood of Jesus shouts louder than anything you can ever do. It sings to God on your behalf. You are the beloved of God. I don’t want you to sin, but more importantly I want you to know that your sin is not bigger than God’s love for you. You are safe because love cannot be provoked, therefore, God is not provoked.

God is . . . not selfish

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own.

We have thought about arrogance, egotism, and self-centeredness in this examination of what love is. As we continue looking at chapter 13 we reach this phrase, “love does not seek its own.” What does that mean but that love is not selfish?

God’s love is not self-oriented. He loves us not for Himself, but for us. In other words, He doesn’t love us for what it gets Him or what we will do for Him. Love does not focus the camera lens on itself but instead on others. This is the essential model of love and this is essential God.

Love does not serve itself, it serves others. Love doesn’t worry itself about serving itself. It isn’t seeking its own interests. Can you see this? Real love is not concerned with filling its needs. This is what we need to understand about God. His every thought is about our welfare, not what we can do for Him.

There has been such a misunderstanding in the body of Christ about our relationship with God. I used to think our relationship was all about the tasks He wanted me to do and the roles He wanted me to fill. Now I understand that He cares very little for those things. These tasks and jobs which we think are so big and so important are as a gnat to Him. The one thing which is important to Him is us and our welfare. Think this through with me. His greatest thoughts and ambitions are about us. How does that impact all of your theology? He wants to help us become healthy, whole and happy. Everything He does is towards that end. His vision is for us to walk in complete and total victory, the victory that Christ has already won for us. God didn’t have to give you cancer to make you strong. Your victory is in Christ. Jesus won the battle. God is our strength. Besides, there is no cancer in heaven for God to send to you. He has only good things.  So, understanding that God is love defines your entire perspective about Him and therefore your theology.

God did not call you to Himself so that you could serve Him. He called you to Himself so that He could serve you and care for you. Remember Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles? He is the greatest servant ever and though we model Jesus, God did not call us as servants but as children. True love, the God kind of love doesn’t serve itself. It does not seek its own wishes. God seeks to fulfill the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37: 4). Love is not selfish; God is not selfish.

God is . . . not unbecoming

1 Corinthians 13: 4- 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly.

How obvious is this truth? How can you say you love me if your actions are unbecoming. Okay, do you want some synonyms for unbecomingly? Here are just a few: improperly, inappropriately, indelicately, incorrectly, unsuitably. Anyone who behaves in any of these manners towards us does not love us. Period. There is no excuse for these categories of actions from anyone who says they love us. This chapter of 1 Corinthians defines love for us. In so doing, it establishes boundaries and expectations for human relationships even as it describes God.

Your heavenly Father would never act inappropriately with you. You are always safe with Him. That is important for you to know. He will never be indelicate or improper. There is nothing about you that He does not know but that does not mean that He will ever violate your privacy or your boundaries. He is kind, gentle and caring. He is nurturing and sensitive to your needs.

You should expect every one of your friends and associates to respect your healthy boundaries as well. It is never okay for the person who says they love you or anyone else to ever act inappropriately towards you. I know we all tend to make mistakes but, you should have very firm lines drawn and if people step over them, even once, you should let them know that is not acceptable. They may not realize where your boundaries are or they could have made an honest mistake. None the less, God wants you to have healthy relationships and this necessarily means surrounding yourself with people who will not behave unbecomingly towards you. Love never violates your personal borders, and it does not act improperly. Love honors you and respects you. God’s love always makes you feel safe and treasured.