Over a year ago (July 9, 2016 to be specific), I published a blog post titled, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” I’d like to revisit a major portion of that blog post today. After all, we could all use a little more love if it’s the right kind of love. We tend to casually throw that word around a lot, so first we need to define what real love is and what real love is not. First Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us the description of genuine love (which also happens to include what love is not):
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
From these verses we find what love is. Love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all thing; and it never, ever ends.
From these verses we also find what love is not. Love is not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, and does not rejoice in wrongdoing (e.g., doing evil). Love is also not to be confused with desire or lust.
The following is taken from my blog post, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” published in July 2016 with some minor editing:
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken
While genuine love is anything but a “second hand emotion,” nobody likes dealing with a broken heart. And it is genuine love that can heal the brokenhearted. What the world needs now, more than anything else, is large doses of compassion, and understanding, and, yes, love (genuine love).
Five years ago I wrote a blog post titled, “What The World Needs Now” (published on August 21, 2012). In that blog post I quoted a short devotion I found in a book of devotional readings titled “Day by Day” (2000, 2005) by Dr. Charles Swindoll, former President and current Chancellor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and he also serves in leadership at Insight for Living Ministries and at Stonebriar Community Church. The title of this particular devotion is “Compassion.”
It was one of those backhanded compliments. The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastors’ conference. All he knew about me was what he’d heard in the past few days: ex-marine… schooled in an independent seminary… committed to biblical exposition… noncharismatic… premil… pretrib… pro this… anti that.
Toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight. It went something like this: “You don’t fit. You’ve got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don’t sound like it. Your theology is narrow, but you’re not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there’s no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren’t legalistic and demanding.” Then he added: “Even though you’re a firm believer in the Bible, you’re still having fun, still enjoying life. You’ve even got some compassion!”
“You’ve even got some compassion!” Like, if you’re committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn’t get that concerned about people stuff–heartaches, hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failures, and grief–because those are only temporal problems. Mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give ’em the gospel. Get ’em saved!
Be honest now. Isn’t that the way it usually is? Isn’t it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate?
I want to know why. Why either–or? Why not both–and?
I’d also like to know when we departed from the biblical model. When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy?
Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.
And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion. The Living Bible says, “Then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father” (Isaiah 58:14).
If you really want to “ride high, and get your full share of the blessings,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.
Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ’em. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected a full dose of condemnation, but got compassion instead.
Others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
We may talk a lot about “compassion” in our churches, but what do we do with it on an hour-by-hour basis in our own personal lives with the folks we run into every single day? How do we conduct our business with others? Are we honest in our dealings with them? Do we actually care about what they might be going through (if we know their circumstances–for example, the homeless)? If we do anything at all, do we give out McDonald’s food coupons in an effort to appease our guilt and/or rationalize that if we actually gave them money they’d just spend it on less savory indulgences? It’s not that food coupons are wrong to give out, but it’s the attitude behind why we are giving them food coupons in the first place. For the most part we have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes, and we tend to assume way too much about others we don’t know that is often erroneous at best.
Getting back to the original question: “What’s love got to do with it?” Love has everything to do with it, and it starts with how we treat others–and that includes the person right in front of us whether in a parking lot or in an aisle at a grocery store, or someone who might be yelling obscenities within earshot that we don’t appreciate, or treating us with disdain. Or it might be someone who is a Christian who doesn’t view things exactly as we do on certain topics (and that’s been going on for centuries). . . .
With that being said, I’m not implying that an initial reaction to a bad experience isn’t legitimate, such as anger or frustration or heartache. What I am saying is that there is real evil in this world and there are real enemies out there in society. Within the Christian community today we focus so much on internal “enemies” (fear, guilt, shame, etc.) that we totally forget that we have real enemies (as in the human kind) out there in society, too. Turning on the news on any given day clearly shows that fact. And often they are hiding in plain sight. I read a quote that Joyce Meyer, one of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:
A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10. It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.
The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!
But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum! (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in “Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015)
There are definitely people out there living among us who are like the description given above, and their agenda is clearly stated in the quote above, too; and those enemies don’t even have to know us personally to show up in our lives and try to take us down. However, when we fight among ourselves and disparage each other (or treat others with total disrespect), and disdain those we don’t know or like, we give our enemies a stronghold on us. And when we judge others or gossip about them, we are actually setting ourselves up for a possible future confrontation with those enemies. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
What it boils down to is that expressing and showing love even for our enemies really isn’t “just an option” for a Christian. Genuine love keeps us right with God and right with others, even if those “others” (e.g., terrorists and assorted others) couldn’t care less. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Also, I Corinthians 13:4-8 (previously stated above) gives us a clear picture of what genuine love really looks and acts like:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
We often have no idea of the harm we do when we disdain, disrespect, and discredit others, especially those we don’t know or don’t like for whatever reason. However, for the Christian, evil is fought on God’s battleground (Exodus 14:14), and not in the games we play with others. We can’t win this battle against the unforeseen forces of evil around us (see Ephesians 6:10-18) on our own–only God can win it. But we do have an obligation to do what Jesus has told us to do in living as His disciples, and that is to love God, love others . . . no exceptions.
That ends the portion taken from the blog post from July 2016. I must confess that I get weary of trying to fight battles that are beyond my power to fight, and I’ll be the first to admit that this reminder from my blog post from a year ago is a reminder for me, too. It’s a reminder that we can easily get off course in this life, and if life throws enough bad stuff at us (and life is just that way sometimes) that we can react in the wrong ways even when we don’t mean to. Having grown up in Christian circles and spent a lot of my life in the church I got so weary of all the books and sermons that focused on “us” and our “internal enemies” all the time–“guilt, fear, worry, and shame, etc.” that is so common today. We don’t read about that kind of stuff in the Book of Acts. Those first Christians in the New Testament (and Jesus, too) had real human enemies, and they weren’t the “internal enemies” we spend so much time focusing on today while ignoring the real enemies in our world. Jesus already gave us the answer to our “guilt, fear, worry, shame, etc.” He is the answer! Today we’d rather fight and quarrel with each other (James discusses this very issue in James 4) and buy the latest book on how to get rid of our “guilt, fear, worry, and shame, etc.”
I’m much older now, and I’ve got decades of experience from my own church experiences to attest to what I’ve stated above from being a part of the church since I was a little girl. We often spend too much time majoring on the minors and ignoring the enemy that is comfortably sitting in our midst and patting us on our backs. Back in the New Testament those early Christians knew that enemy and knew that it lived in their very midst and threatened their lives. Today, we think we’re safe when we walk inside the doors of a church, but the battle rages on as intensely there as it does anywhere else. The history of Christianity down through the ages and today all around the world proves that to be true, too. And the apostle Paul made that battle very clear in Ephesians 6:10-18:
“. . .be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. . .”
As Christians, all of our battles in this life belong to God. Only He can see the whole picture of what is really going on, and we don’t have the power to fight it on our own anyway (no matter how hard we try). What the world needs a whole lot more of is “that thing called love” . . . .
And it starts . . .
With us . . .
No exceptions . . . .
YouTube Video: “Testify To Love” by Avalon: