Faith and hope naturally go together, like a couple dating, but love gets left behind, like the odd man out.
It’s easy to keep faith and have hope. Love, however, is often simply forgotten. It gets left undone.
I think this is because faith and hope are internal to each of us – they are pure beliefs or feelings. Love, however, as Christian rap trio DC Talk (Wiki link) says, Luv is a Verb.
“luv is a word that requires some action.”
I like the way the AMPC Bible translation describes the three:
1 Corinthians 13:13
Faith – conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things;
Hope – joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation;
Love – true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us.
It’s that last part I know I miss. Sure, I’m grateful to God for what He has done – for me. But extending that to others?
Selfishness is a default human setting, maybe? It’s an extra step to “give them (others) the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
“Giving comfort” is really all love is. And I know what that feels like because I’ve received it. A lot of it.
So all I need to do is imitate God, maybe?
I can do this in some ways. As far as I know, I’ve never provided anything materially miraculous, but I’ve been gentle, kind, (mostly) faithful and considerate. (“Polite but sarcastic,” according to the Greenwood Village cop who booked me for OUI in ’96. And I held out my hand to shake, as if to thank him for busting me…)
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what love is and isn’t, and it all comes down to the attitudes I take towards people.
A few versions use a different word for it: Faith, Hope, and Charity.
Love – unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me (AMP)
We have three things to do… trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. (MSG)
Does thinking of love in these “verb-ish” terms make it an easier thing to do? I’ll give it (and whoever I meet) a shot and let you know.
Images from PxHere.com, Creative Commons Zero (CC0).
This is for you – my friend who doesn’t believe. And you, the one who doubts. You know who you are. I have to ask you, “What’s so unbelievable about this story of God?”
My purpose is not to convert you or to make you believe. I have no power to do that. I don’t really have any expectations, either. My mission is simply to Share God’s Story in my life – in this one life – that you might think upon your suppositions and assumptions, and seek – full time, from here on out – to know and understand and become aware of more and more and more and more. I have no doubt of what you will find, though I may never see you conclude. He, not I, will convince and convict you by your own life and circumstances.
Who is this God? To start, look around you. It is He who made everything – with intent, not randomness. Consider the complexity of this creation, these laws of Nature. How perfectly it all comes together! This is no design of lottery! (That’s a mushroom from my lawn – golden-domed. Awesome!)
And you, yourself. I know you’ve heard Shakespeare:
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! Hamlet
Why does your feeling change when you hear it in the Word of the Maker?
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;…” Jeremiah 1:4-5
Who is this God? Yes, He brought everything together. Then He became a part of it. He was born into this world as His Son – mortal; one of us. He needed to understand existence from our point of view, from our perspective, to hold a common frame of reference with us. His mortal life is a message to us, an example for us. Proof that a human being can live a pure life. The Standard of the living. A body can live with great, Godly patience, and can teach, show, help, and tell others this same message with thankfulness, gratefulness, loving all others, no matter what!
Who is this God? He, who gave us free choice, because He knows “if you love something let it go, if it returns, it is yours.” He, who saw that we would want to try going it on our own, alone, listening to whispers of doubt about Him. But, so that His absolute justice and love for us would be reconciled, He sent Himself to trial and a sentence of death for our crimes, in our place. He experienced the cruelest, most painful process of execution for all our sins.
What’s so unbelievable? Every tale in our every history has that whisperer; Good vs evil, right vs wrong, light vs dark, pure vs polluted. This world – this life – is a war – not of this world – but very much for this world.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, … the authorities, …the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 NIV
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we use are not the weapons of this world. One the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Indeed, there is a real enemy, and his very first strategy is to hide and disguise himself. He’s quite happy to have you disbelieve. It’s his idea that you “Question everything,” rather than “Testing everything against what you know to be true.”
But test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Indeed, the primary battleground in this war of the spirit is within the individual human heart and flesh. It is not me against you, us against them. It is a fight within you, and an ongoing struggle within me. Have you surrendered? From birth, we have the will to do what is good, but we fall so easily to the distraction of our senses, the hoarding of our physical pleasures, the dream that all is well and we can stay at ease in our comfort.
What’s so unbelievable? We must fight! We must fight ourselves, for our very souls!
Be self-controlled and alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. 1 Peter 5:8-9
Put on the full armor of God:
– the Belt of Truth
– the Breastplate of Righteousness
– feet fitted with the Readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace
– the Shield of Faith
– the Helmet of Salvation
– the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God Ephesians 6:13-17
Do you know the deadly sins? Lust, gluttony, avarice/greed, sloth, anger/wrath, envy, pride/vanity. They are countered by the Fruit of the Spirit, grown in a daily relationship with the Creator and Savior: Peace, Joy, Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness/Humility, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control, along with the Holy Virtues of Chastity, Abstinence, Temperance, and Diligence. It is only in ourselves that we can develop these solemn and guiding principles. I cannot force you to have them. There can be no law that requires them. I can only demonstrate them in my own life. I can only Share God’s Story in my life:
Journal Entry, upon the Milestone of One Year in Recovery
“Tuesday, April 14, 2009 It’s amazing to me how much has changed in my life in one year – all because I realized I was helpless and hopeless while spiritually alone.
“Oh! How many times before this past year did I wish, plan, dream, hope, try to change, to be different, to make myself something else, someone else.
“And what happened, every time, to every one of my figurative and literal ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ can be summed up very neatly by a cliche: “Stick a fork in him/it (me)” (Except, of course in my case, it was a knife.)
“It’s almost as if – instead of working on whatever change I really wanted to make, my full time occupation was blame. Blaming myself, blaming physical parts of me, blaming others. My ‘job’ was diverting myself away; distracting myself; defeating myself.
“Did I accomplish anything all those years? (Anything good, that is – cause I was really successful at purposely wasting time being frivolous and getting my jollies: playing games, drinking to excess, etc.) Did I accomplish anything good on purpose? By my own efforts? ([By] waiting for something to happen?) …
“Perhaps all that really happened one year ago was that I figuratively gave a mortal wounding to the old me – the lone ranger, the solo single. And that person has been bleeding out over the past 365 days – those fluids being replaced by a new spiritual fuel.
“April 14 was the day I looked at myself in the mirror and – for the first time – really saw ME: naked and bleeding and alone and shocked! Shocked! And I really asked myself, ‘Is this who I really want to be?’
“The Bible tells us that we must die to ourselves before we can give ourselves over to Christ. Yes, I think that’s what happened one year ago today. A wounding, beginning a slow death, and a coup de grace on July 25 [when I attempted suicide] – a spear in the side, perhaps.
“Up to that point, I had been trying to make me different. But what had to happen was that the ME who believed he was alone had to go, had to be replaced, had to die; and WE: myself and God and Jesus are who I see now in the mirror.
“I am changed. You change me. God, my Father, is with me, and is helping me make things happen.
“Thank You, Father, for doing more in one year with me than I – in more than [four] decades – could do without You.”
Did that title catch your eye? I find it interesting that some words and phrases have come to have such a default risque association. The use of double entendres is truly an art. Just consider the vanilla definition of “expose” (it comes from Latin expositus ‘to put or set out’) and the difference when a pronoun is added.
It occurred to me, though, that what we Christians are called to do is exactly that: to expose Christ Himself to others. To “introduce someone to” Christ and the Good News, and to do this – not in a preachy, “thou shalt” way, but by quietly, simply living His example fully in our own lives, that it may be seen in us first. Then, when asked, we are enabled to explain:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15 NIV
And what is this “Good News”? To begin with, ‘good’ is hardly descriptive enough. This is gggrrreeeaaattt! Amazing! Miraculous! It is the answer to every problem! It’s simple secret is in its ability to make everything right– not because it changes anything outside us, but it transforms the very heart of us. It’s a divine attitude adjustment, altering how we view ourselves for ever after – because we finally understand that we are made right.
How does this happen? As I’ve expressed before, the fundamental question that we each must answer for ourselves is whether or not there is a creating ‘force’ or ‘being’ with a ‘personality’ and/or purpose for the creation. You either believe there is or not. The decision is based on the physical evidence of the world around us – and, if we will “admit” to “seeing” them – the meta-physical realities, as well. Call it what you like: spiritual, mystical, coincidental, miraculous – there is an element to this universe that has no ‘rational’ explanations, but our minds demand one.
What I believe – and believing is knowing what I can not prove – is in God as told of in The Bible. He created. Man, despite being made in His image, chose and fell. But God knew this would happen, and had already built into creation the resolution: Salvation which both restores Man to relation with Maker, and fulfills all need for justice.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
A response of “yes” to God – His existence, purpose, and nature – satisfactorily explains everything. Without divine intent, the question of “why” can never cease to be asked.
Consider what this perspective gives me: By my faith in God I believe – I know – I have been granted many things by God, including the ability to accept what is. It’s really that straightforward. The past is past, over and done with, no regrets, no changes. The future, while clouded in mystery, is going to be good, whether just figuratively (because of my outlook) or literally (because any stormy season will pass). I have just this moment to live in, and I do have a purpose – something meaningful and good to do. Something greater than myself.
I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – testifying to the Good News of God’s Grace.
“God, grant me the serenity.” Peace. It’s just one of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Together, they are the exhibition (oops, another racy word) of God indwelling me. For you to observe. Hopefully, for you to wonder at, and derive some hope of your own.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.
That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by eat other’s faith, both yours and mine.