Saturday, September 19, 2015
There is so much to take in and consider when trying to understand love from God's perspective. People have a natural form of love that comes with ease and at first consideration it might seem to be sufficient in regards to the command to "love your neighbor as yourself". But in truth, the natural love or affection that comes without much effort to humans is never quite enough to satisfy the "as yourself" qualification of that command.
For instance, it is easy to bring a hot dish over to a sick or grieving family, but it does not come easily to serve the same family to the full when their grief creates a physical need for an extended period of time. The days following the death of a loved one might be filled with good food and well wishes, even a show of support with help in lawn care and other menial tasks of the like. But indeed one or two months later when the initial shock of loss has passed, there surfaces a deeper more lasting form of grief and challenge that is often faced alone by a grieving family. This is just one such instance where the easy natural love people have for one another proves to be insufficient to meet the mark of "loving your neighbor as yourself". I'm convinced that the love spoken of in what Jesus called the second greatest command is something entirely beyond what comes naturally to man kind. It is a deliberate, selfless, enduring kind of love that has only been demonstrated by God Himself. Yet we are commanded to do it.
1 Corinthians 13 chisels away the likely misconceptions of love one might have, describing in great detail it's meaning according to God's desire. It defines God's expectation of love so pointedly that I find myself in wonder at my inability to comprehend it and live it out, yet I cannot deny it. I must confess that as a Christian woman of thirty plus years I grapple with loving my neighbor as myself quite often. As the example I gave earlier shows, I believe I am not alone in this.
Today, however, I want to focus on one aspect of love that seems like a no brainer to me, but apparently is quiet challenging to many people in the church, particularly women. And when I say this, I am not pointing fingers at a specific church or situation in a church. I am merely bringing up a matter that I've witnessed myself and that women have questioned me about on a number of occasions.
1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that "love is not easily offended". But I wonder how many of us have become "offended" in our church experiences. I'm guessing that every single one of us is guilty of this failure. And you know, the World is not ignorant about this either. Believers have, on a number of occasions, given reason for the World to mock and scorn because we demonstrate a propensity to be offensive and to be easily offended.
For example, we could name the stereo typical "Women's Ministry" dynamic that is so often scorned by unbelievers who have "tried doing the church thing". You know the one I'm talking about. Ladies gather, ladies talk, ladies try to organize something for any given ministry and one or two ladies assume the role of Bossy Bessie. When Bossy Bessie rears her ugly head all hell breaks loose in the kitchen. This kind of sinful, self serving, self exalting behavior makes people want to run from women's ministry. It is offensive and people become offended and they pull away.
If we take seriously the words of 1 Corinthians 13 then our behavior while we serve should reflect the kind of love God prefers. Otherwise we are nothing but resounding gongs and clanging symbols and our service has no worth. All too often I've heard women use the word, "hurt" to describe their response to the offensive behavior of "Bossy Bessies". They respond with personal indignation to the sinful behavior of those who want to rule the roost in women's ministries becoming easily offended. I'm guilty of this myself. I must confess that I've done my fair share of avoiding serving at church functions because of Bossy Bessies. But I've realized that head on love inspired confrontation of the sinful lording of others is best. Any other response just lends itself to more sinfulness.
Love is not easily offended. God tells us this. So if we respond to the sinfulness of others by "licking our wounds" and "feeling hurt" and all the other gossipy destructive responses that typically go hand in hand with being easily offended then we do not love. We become just as guilty as Bossy Bessie who insists on having her own way. To what end does this lead? It leads to lack of unity and gives reason for the world to mock and criticize, depriving them of the witness of God's love between us, even causing others to stumble. This is to our shame. The only remedy is repentance all around. And God will help us do it. Love your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest command. By paying attention to God's description of love we will be better equipped to keep this command more faithfully. The state of being offensive and being easily offended will lose its grip on people's hearts, and believers will become the unified witness God desires them to be.