First Corinthians 13
Sometimes misunderstood, John began to think about how blessed he was to have such a wonderful wife, and he decided to show his appreciation. So he went out and bought a box of candy and a dozen roses. When he got home, he decided to ring the bell and surprise her at the door. When Mary answered the bell and saw him with candy and roses, she burst into tears. “What’s wrong?” he insisted. “It’s been a horrible day;” she cried out. ‘The baby’s been sick, the washing machine broke down and now you come home drunk!”
There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are. — Creole Proverb
We find love by first loving ourselves. Try to understand exactly what loving your neighbor as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself? Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently ‘Love your neighbour’ does not mean ‘feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive’… That is an enormous relief.”
A man was sitting outside the drug store in New Castle, Kentucky. He had a Social Security check in his hand, waiting for the bank to open. He asked, “Have you ever really been hungry?”
We find love by giving love to others. Love is the willingness to sacrifice for others. Hatred is the willingness to sacrifice others. Leo Buscaglia in his book Loving Each Other, says, “Always start a relationship by asking: Do I have ulterior motives for wanting to relate to this person? Is my caring conditional? Am I trying to escape something? Am I planning to change the person? Do I need this person to help me make up for a deficiency in myself?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes,’ leave the person alone. He or she is better off without you.”
If you’re too busy to help your neighbor in need, you’re too busy. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him (is just too busy to help), how can the love of God be in him? (John 3:17) Love heals people; it heals the one who gives it, and it heals the one who receives it.
Fifty-seven pennies found under a little girl’s pillow when she died left their mark on Philadelphia. The girl wanted to enter a little Sunday School in Philadelphia years ago, and was told that there was not enough room. She began saving her pennies to “help the Sunday School have more room.” Two years later she became ill and died, and they found a small pocket book under her pillow with fifty-seven pennies and a piece of paper which had the following note written very neatly: “To help build the Little Temple bigger, so more children can go to Sunday School.” The Pastor told the story to his congregation, and the newspaper took the story across the country. Soon the pennies grew, and the outcome can be seen in Philadelphia today. There is a church which will seat 3,300 persons, a Temple University which accommodates thousands of students, a Temple Hospital, and a large Temple Sunday School.
And it all began with a beautiful, dedicated spirit — and fifty-seven pennies.
It takes concern and commitment and dedication and love to give one’s self.
In the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the parable of the Good Samaritan: “Go thou and do likewise.”
We find love by finding God. Ron Jenson rented a travel camper and traveled around the country with his wife while working on his doctoral thesis. His task was to interview 350 Christian leaders. At the end of his tour he made a discouraging observation. He said, “I found a great deal of zeal for God’s work, but very little passion for God.”
There was a small voice that penetrated the stillness of the night. It came from the bedroom across the hall. “Daddy, I’m scared!” Out of your groggy, fuzzy state, you respond with, “Honey, don’t be afraid, Daddy’s right across the hall.” After a very brief pause the little voice is heard again, “I’m still scared.”
Always quick with an insight you respond, “You don’t need to be afraid, God is with you. God loves you.” This time the pause is longer . . . but the voice returns, “I don’t care about God, Daddy; I want someone with skin!”
It seems like the logic used by the little child is precisely the reason for the incarnation. After thousands of years of being unsuccessful in being able to convince his people that he really loved them, our Creator realized that the best way to demonstrate his love for us was to send “someone with skin on.”
In Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, Mr. Washington recalled a beautiful incident of an older brother’s love. He said the shirts worn on his plantation by the slaves were made of a rough, bristly, inexpensive flax fiber. As a young boy, the garment was so abrasive to his tender, sensitive skin that it caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort. His older brother, moved by his brother’s suffering, would wear Booker’s new shirts, until they were broken in and smoother to the touch. Booker said it was one of the most striking acts of kindness he had experienced among his fellow slaves. What a beautiful illustration of “bearing one another’s burden,” which we are admonished to do in Galatians 6:10.
Love doesn’t just happen, it is learned. We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out. Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me.” Tolerance says, “you must agree with me.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced ‘the truth will set you free.'” Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk.” Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.
One of the most difficult things I ever had to do in my life was to tell a colleague and friend that he smelt bad. The two of us had a friendship that went back 25 years. No one else was telling him the truth, not even regional staff. We do not judge the people we love. We pardon to the extent that we love.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. In the end what counts? And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.