“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love” I Corinthians 13:1 – Is love a thing that I can have, acquire, or hoard? If I don't have it where do I get it? Can I buy it, sell it, give it away? No, I “have” love in the same way that I have blue eyes or brown hair. It is a property that is intrinsic to my person. Yet Christ commands us to love (John 15:9-13), it is something that we do (an act of our will) purposefully. It is both a part of who we are and what we do.
If I (claim to) love someone, what must I do for them, to them, with them, about them? What is required? (See Micah 6:6-8 (and Leviticus 19) for an Old Testament hint.)
Look at these scripture passages to get an idea of the range of love that Christ commands:
Love your enemy (Matthew 5:43-45)
Fix up their problems when they're unable (Luke 10:29-37)
Offer a cup of water to the thirsty, food for the hungry, companionship when they're lonely, clothing when needed, hospitality (Matthew 25:31-46)
Here are some questions we might consider as we think about how to be obedient to these love commands:
Must I seek out strangers to love?
Must I systematically plan an active campaign of love (what we might call “intentional love”) for each of the people that I already have some connection with? If so, how do I (or should I?) avoid the potential backlash of “don't make me one of your do-good projects!”?
Is it enough, or is it preferred, that love should be a spontaneous response, rather than an active plan, (what we might describe as “incidental”, or “organic”, love) as the Spirit reveals both others' needs and my own capacity (or His, with my willingness to follow His leading) to meet those needs?
Would intentional love necessarily lead to a Pharisaical focus on the mechanics or the processes, rather than the essential spirit of love? Would I tend to be “counting mustard seeds” trying to fulfill the letter of the law rather than actually meeting the real needs of people so they can see Christ?
For Further Reflection:
I John 4:7-21
I Corinthians 13
Leviticus 19:1-18, 30-37
Religious and Social Regulations
19:1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 19:2 “Speak to the whole congregation of the Israelites and tell them, ‘You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. 19:3 Each of you must respect his mother and his father, and you must keep my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God. 19:4 Do not turn to idols, and you must not make for yourselves gods of cast metal. I am the Lord your God.
Eating the Peace Offering
19:5 “‘When you sacrifice a peace offering sacrifice to the Lord, you must sacrifice it so that it is accepted for you. 19:6 It must be eaten on the day of your sacrifice and on the following day, but what is left over until the third day must be burned up. 19:7 If, however, it is eaten on the third day, it is spoiled, it will not be accepted, 19:8 and the one who eats it will bear his punishment for iniquity because he has profaned what is holy to the Lord. That person will be cut off from his people.
Leaving the Gleanings
19:9 “‘When you gather in the harvest of your land, you must not completely harvest the corner of your field, and you must not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. 19:10 You must not pick your vineyard bare, and you must not gather up the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You must leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
19:11 “‘You must not steal, you must not tell lies, and you must not deal falsely with your fellow citizen. 19:12 You must not swear falsely in my name, so that you do not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 19:13 You must not oppress your neighbor or commit robbery against him. You must not withhold the wages of the hired laborer overnight until morning. 19:14 You must not curse a deaf person or put a stumbling block in front of a blind person. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
Justice, Love, and Propriety
19:15 “‘You must not deal unjustly in judgment: you must neither show partiality to the poor nor honor the rich. You must judge your fellow citizen fairly. 19:16 You must not go about as a slanderer among your people. You must not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the Lord. 19:17 You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. 19:18 You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Purity, Honor, Respect, and Honesty
19:30 “‘You must keep my Sabbaths and fear my sanctuary. I am the Lord. 19:31 Do not turn to the spirits of the dead and do not seek familiar spirits to become unclean by them. I am the Lord your God. 19:32 You must stand up in the presence of the aged, honor the presence of an elder, and fear your God. I am the Lord. 19:33 When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. 19:34 The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. 19:35 You must not do injustice in the regulation of measures, whether of length, weight, or volume. 19:36 You must have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin. I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 19:37 You must be sure to obey all my statutes and regulations. I am the Lord.’”
6:6 With what should I enter the Lord’s presence?
With what should I bow before the sovereign God?
Should I enter his presence with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?
6:7 Will the Lord accept a thousand rams,
or ten thousand streams of olive oil?
Should I give him my firstborn child as payment for my rebellion,
my offspring – my own flesh and blood – for my sin?
6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what the Lord really wants from you:
He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful,
and to live obediently before your God.
Love for Enemies
5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 5:45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 5:47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 5:48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
10:25 Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” 10:27 The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 10:28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
10:29 But the expert, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead. 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side. 10:32 So too a Levite, when he came up to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 10:33 But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. 10:34 He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 10:35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’ 10:36 Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 10:37 The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 25:33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 25:36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 25:37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 25:38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? 25:39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 25:42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 25:44 Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 25:45 Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ 25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I John 4:7-21
God is Love
4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 4:8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 4:9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
4:11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 4:12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 4:13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
4:15 If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. 4:16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. 4:17 By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. 4:19 We love because he loved us first.
4:20 If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 4:21 And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too.
I Corinthians 13
The Way of Love
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 13:2 And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 13:3 If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. 13:5 It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. 13:6 It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. 13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, 13:10 but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
15:9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. 15:10 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 15:11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. 15:12 My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. 15:13 No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends. 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15:15 I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. 15:17 This I command you – to love one another.
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