I believe that I know God’s will for my life at this moment, and that is He is strongly urging me to write right away, and so write I will. I believe I know this truth, for this is now the third consecutive sleep cycle in which I have awoken halfway through only to be unable to proceed with my former activity due to a very severe sore throat that is quite honestly a highly obnoxious thing to deal with. With that I said, I will continue with this soliloquy and see where it takes me. I feel my writing at night is much more… epic, if you will, than say during the day. That is probably because I come from an epic background. So don’t judge this, just read and enjoy.
Contrary to public opinion, I do think a lot throughout my days, weeks, and months. This past semester, one theme I have really be trying to reiterate in my life-a theme in which I have, I feel, failed at applying as much as I would like-is love. Now when I say love I mean love not love. That is, I am not referring to that silly romantic pie in the sky love which I like to refer to as eros. I am instead referring to the Christian concept of love that is better known as agape: the love for which Christ showed mankind on the cross. This type of love I find myself failing at so very often in the course of my days, in conversation, and in ministry. Thus, this semester, I have recently undergone memorizing 1 Corinthians 13. It is the middle section that I really like to focus on.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices at the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
This above section of scripture is, in my finite mind, a very convicting portion to read. Just going through it, I find that I am often not patient, often I come across as harsh and not kind; I envy and boast and become arrogant and rude; I often insist on my own way constantly looking out for what makes me the most comfortable, and when things do not go my way I become irritable and resentful. I laugh at wrongdoing or dismiss it all together, meanwhile becoming so numb to the truth that I forget to rejoice when I hear it. I can bear little, put God in a box, come across as a pessimist, and in the end am right back where I started: without the much needed long suffering that is so vital to the Christian life.
Like most things in the past year and a half or so concerning my Christian walk, I have learned a great deal concerning love from C.S. Lewis. Perhaps the greatest little nugget I received from him was the idea that God’s love is much different than the love we often think of in our lives. For instance, the world will tell you and me that love is a feeling, a romantic butterfly thing in the stomach which causes us to desire the beloved to aspire to nothing but good their entire life. This type of love leaves no room for conviction, leaves no room for us to attempt to change the individual to become a better person. In Lewis’ example, God’s love is much more like the real type of love between a man and woman. If a man truly loves the other, he will long for that person to become better, to not remain stagnant in their relationship with God. Often this includes a good bit of pain.
Now, I believe that we often take this to an extreme in doing ministry and bringing others to Christ. We are so hung upon making sure that the person being ministered to is growing closer to Christ that we often forget to show them love. Instead of learning about that individual, what he or she likes, where they’re from, what they plan to do with their life, we often dive right into convicting them to adopt our beliefs and theology. More often than not, we do not give them the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps they have grown in their Christian walk, that they were just farther behind when they started. We often assume them to not be Christians before we have found out anything about them. In my mind, this pushes people away far more than brings them closer to God. If I walk into a church and am immediately confronted on what I believe and why I believe it, all the while feeling as if the other party in the conversation is assuming me to not be a Christian, I will inevitably feel put off by such a person and not want to return. Now suppose I am not a Christian, and that same thing happens. On what basis do you believe I will be convicted right away? Being a prideful pagan, I will more than likely view the person confronting me as a self-righteous, legalistic prude who really cares nothing about me at all.
Opposed to this, I believe there is a better way and it involves a bit of humility.
Do nothing from rivalry and conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
These verses describe to us, how a Christian should properly view other relationships. Let’s return to our past example. The person who immediately starts convicting the newcomer in church or wherever is, in my opinion, not truly considering this person as better than themselves. They have already assumed in their own mind that that person is below them for they are attacking them with convictions. Furthermore, they are not considering the interests of the new person. The new person (and I may know a thing or two about being new), honestly just wants to be left alone concerning heavy deep conversations. They are looking for friendship, usually based on material things-nothing deep, nothing spiritual, nothing so much that will cause them to feel uneasy. Thus, when we bring up how bad their spiritual life is immediately we push them away as we are striving for our own interests or agenda to be carried out and not thinking once about them.
In my own experience, I remember coming to an event at Emporia State and being met by a guy named Zack. He did not judge me, ask me what I believe, or convict me (when he could have, for that night I revealed my love for the Dave Matthews Band). Instead, he assumed that I was a sincere Christian and invited me into his group of friends. Obviously, at some point in relationships conviction is always important. Truly loving someone does not allow them to walk casually into hell. Yet, at the same time, neither is forcing our agenda down someone’s throat who has virtually no motive to accept it, for we have given him none. As usual with my speech, I now here must do a bit of eating my own words. That is to say, I hope this little proclamation was somewhat convicting for you as it is for myself. Whether it is or not, I am hereby going to finish this song on the Iron & Wine radio station and hopefully enter that unconscious state we all know as sleep very soon.
Love is the overflow of joy in God! It is not duty for duty’s sake, or right for right’s sake. It is not a resolute abandoning of one’s own good with a view solely to the good of the other person. It is first a deeply satisfying experience of the fullness of God’s grace, and then a doubly satisfying experience of sharing that grace with another person. – John Piper