Thursday, October 11, 2007

The nature of love III

Reflections on 1 Cor 13.6-8a
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Love seeks what is good in the other, even in those who annoy or offend me. When faced with a set-back or disappointment, love assumes incompetence, not conspiracy. My idea was overlooked;* the kitchen was left dirty again; no one has really asked me how I am going and stuck around to hear the answer for weeks. They are not out to get me; they are struggling, fallible, all-too-often self-obsessed people like me. And love looks out for what is good, what is true about them so that I may rejoice in it. Love finds things about other people to thank God for. It seeks them out where they may not be obvious. Love trusts that God has made that difficult person as a good part of his creation and it acts on the certain hope that he intends good for them. This takes a faithful creativity of vision, to see others as God sees them, warts and all, but also as potentially like Jesus, mirrors of his beauty. And so love doesn’t give up on people. It doesn’t write someone off as too hard, too old, too young, too rich, too smelly, too rude, too married, too depressed, too conservative, too difficult.

Love gives second chances. And third and fourth and fifth chances, and prays for change for years. Love never gives up.

Notice that this description of love can’t be reduced to either just actions or attitudes; love involves both – it is a passionate commitment to the good of the other. It is to be towards others in attitude and action as God in Christ has been towards you. It is to treat others with the same mercy and kindness that God has shown you.

We grow more loving by being more conscious of how God has loved us. Just like making a magnet. Do you remember doing that as a kid? Take a piece of iron and rub against another one that is already magnetised. In the same way, if you want to be more loving, hang around the Lord Jesus. Rub up against him. And hang around others who are loving.

You might need to sink yourself deeper into God’s love poured out in Jesus. You might need to experience more of the breadth, length, the height and the depth of Christ’s love, which, Paul says, surpasses knowledge. You might need to read this passage and substitute "our heavenly Father" wherever it says "love": our Father waits patiently; he shows kindness; he keeps no record of my wrongs. And so on. Our if you're looking to be stretched, try substituting your own name in, and see how far through the paragraph you get: Byron is patient...
*Or stolen. With thanks to Rob Forysth for the slogan "assume incompetence, not conspiracy".


Jill said...

I think we must remember too that we have no right to judge those who do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. How can we expect others to display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, when we find this to be such a struggle, despite having the gift of the HSpirit

We need to pray for those who hurt and harm us.

byron smith said...

Yes, great point. A good reminder that love is more than just giving someone the benefit of the doubt, it's praying for them and continuing to do good even when it's clear they are actively conspiring against you: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6.27-28)