20 Oct 2016
We have been unpacking 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s treatise on Love, and looking specifically at what Henry Drummond taught in his essay on this chapter entitled, “The Greatest Thing in the World.” This month we approach one of the hardest virtues: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” We have summarized it: Good Thoughts.
What is so hard about thinking good thoughts, you might be asking yourself. Sounds easy. But when we examine the entire virtue, Paul is saying that when bad things happen to people we dislike or to persons or organizations we despise, loving people are not allowed the “guilty pleasure” of dancing a jig or relishing the fact that the calamity happened to someone who we think deserved it. The German language actually has a word that encompasses that very perverted, but all too human response. The word is Schadenfreude, which is, translated “malicious joy in the misfortunes of others.” It is altogether too easy to indulge this vice.
Think about it for a minute. When our ex-husband breaks up with the woman he dumped us for, we immediately want to call our girlfriends and celebrate. Or, when the boss that fired us get fired himself, we feel an immense guilty satisfaction over his misfortune. On a popular level, think about how Jennifer felt when she learned Angie had dumped Brad. Or, perhaps consider the party that broke out in the Clinton HQ once Trump’s sexually explicit video was released to the public? All too common a response! This virtue is very difficult to learn and to practice.
The reason Paul lists it and makes it the template for truly loving people is because when we delight in someone else’s misfortune we pollute our own hearts. When we indulge unloving spirits, we infect our souls with a disease that will difficult to cure. We become loving people when we rejoice in the good about people and hate the sin that causes others to stumble. As sinners, we can rest assured that someday we will be the one on our knees bleeding. And wouldn’t feel good to have someone reach down and kneel with us when we’ve stumbled rather than sneering and taking delight in our adversity?
The road to a loving, Christ-centered spirit must travel down some very difficult situations. Being kind, patient and humble are tough…but hating sin in ourselves and sin’s effect on others and not indulging a malicious glee when others get beaten-down is the hardest virtue we will ever accomplish. Think about how the world would be if we, as loving people, comforted the fallen instead of celebrating their downfall?
29 Jan 2016
Henry Drummond, 1851-1897, lived in Scotland and was known for his clear thinking theology and concise arguments in favor of the Gospel. His best-known essay is called The Greatest Thing in the World. This classic, short essay unpacks 1 Corinthians 13, perhaps the most famous chapter in the entire Bible. This chapter explores and dissects love. Love, is first contrasted with what it is NOT…then, as with light through a prism, love is considered in all its component parts.
Over the next 12 months, there will be a monthly posting called the Our Monthly Virtue. We will track and use Mr. Drummond’s treatise very closely and with great respect, since this work has served as the foundation for many eloquent sermons and books on the central subject of Love. Our objective is to set the reader’s course for the month on a precise virtue, with the hope and prayer that it acts as a guiding light, a beacon and touchstone throughout the month to better guide our lives.
Drummond calls love the summum bonum—the supreme good. If we have only one life to live and we wish to live it well and to the highest goal, we should Live to Love. In fact, Drummond says with some emphasis and without apology, the “It is better not to live, than not to love.” More on this quote later…
Paul is not along in singling out Love as the highest calling. Peter and John both state it emphatically. “Above all things have fervent love among yourselves” (Peter) and John puts it succinctly, “God is Love.” That makes Love the highest calling for if “God is Love”, how can we aspire to anything greater that God?
When we love we fulfill the Law. When we truly love God, can any of us really allow another God before Him? When we truly love God, could any of us ever dream of taking His name is vain…which is to consider it lightly or as a mere McDonald’s Happy Meal toy? When we truly love God, we would never ever consider killing another, lying or dishonoring or father or mother. When we truly love God, stealing become abhorrent and coveting our neighbor’s stuff ceases to be an issue. Love fulfills the Law of God. We will explore Love in all its beautiful complexities and rainbow colors beginning in February and continuing through December.
20 Aug 2015
In an earlier blog post we wrote about The Power of the Cross. We detailed that God was a Holy God that cannot abide sin in any form. That being the case, we as sinful human beings were in a lot of trouble in the eternal destiny department. We were going to have to pay for our sins somehow if we ever wanted to be with God in heaven someday. But we also noted that God’s love was so great that He realized we are powerless to pay the piper, so to speak, so God sent His son Jesus to die in our place. Our conclusion: We are more sinful and guilty than we ever dared acknowledge, but more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope!
The “take-away” of the Power of the Cross is this incredible fact: All of our sins went to Jesus on the Cross and all of Jesus’ glory, perfection and holiness comes to us, when we believe.
But the Power of the Cross is only half the story. The Power of the Tomb is the second part. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then all His teachings about forgiveness of sins, eternal life and a new heaven and a new earth someday are just some ancient philosophy devoid of any real power to change the fundamental structure of the human heart.
If we cannot believe the eyewitness accounts of the disciples and others like Paul, then our faith in Jesus is a dead end. Jesus would become just another wise prophet, philosophical teacher of love and forgiveness. Gone would be the heart changing power of new life in Christ. But Jesus did rise from the dead.
The difference between Christianity and all other world religions is that it offer a relationship with a living person. Other religions, while offering truths for daily living, simply point the way to God. Jesus claims to be God and offers us salvation through that belief. Through this free gift of The Cross and The Tomb, we are able to:
*accept forgiveness for our past;
**make peace with the present and;
***find hope for the future.
Jesus offers the power to achieve these things by giving us direct access to Him through prayer, devotions and the Holy Spirit.
03 Jul 2015
While on road trips between LA and Denver, I like to stop my truck in out of the way places and take a look around for evidence of life as it happens in the real world. On my last road trip, I pulled of I-70 at the Rulison (no services) exit to do just that. Why I pulled off there is anyone’s guess, but I did. While walking around, looking at the Rockies, I glanced down at something that caught my eye. There lying at the side of the exit on ramp were these women’s panties, (See pictures below) with the big word LOVE stamped on the back.
At first I just ignored them, but I could not let it go, for I wondered about what had happened on this lonely 300 yards of on-ramp, off I-70. Mickey Gilley’s, famous line from his hit song, Lookin’ For Love, came flooding into my brain…”I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places…”
Obviously, I knew what action had most likely transpired, but it was the implied desperation of someone who wanted LOVE so deeply that they bought underwear proclaiming it! The irony of the word LOVE on the undergarment and the futility and hopelessness of attempting to find real LOVE in a pickup truck on an on-ramp off a deserted interstate that made me think. All of us search for love all our lives. Some of us look to work to satisfy the craving. Others to their children or families. But, the only source of real LOVE comes from something that doesn’t disappoint, change or manipulate us with words and promises that will never be kept. Only Jesus offers us the LOVE that never fails.
On this road, late one night, did a girl, young women or middle-aged lady give in to the world’s definition of what LOVE is as she searched so desperately for it, in vain, on a lonely strip of concrete in Rulison, CO?
“Help us Lord to look for and find LOVE in the only place it exists.” Amen