Saturday, June 11, 2005

Importing the Love You Need

[Weddings and marriage seem to be the theme of the day here. In about an hour-and-a-half, I'll be presiding at the wedding of two special people. Later on, there will be a reception on a river boat on the Ohio. Then, it's to worship tomorrow morning, followed by the sprint to do all the last-minute things that need done before our daughter's and future son-in-law's wedding next Saturday. It's a happy time.]

It’s always wonderful to see two special people get together. So, I think that I speak for all of us when I say that I am very happy for both of you today. I hope that this wedding, nestled in the Ohio River Valley, will be as much of a mountaintop experience as the one you had at Mount Kilimanjaro a few months ago.

I wish that I had some pearls of wisdom with which I could dazzle you and everyone else who’s here today. But I’ve found that most of my wisdom is of the imported, downloaded variety, not original with me. I hope that it won’t surprise you that most of it has come from the Bible and has, without any exception that I can think of, been confirmed by my experiences in life.

One of the most beautiful passages in Scripture is one that Devon and Michael read earlier, First Corinthians 13. It wasn’t originally written about marriage. It’s part of a letter written by the first-century preacher and evangelist Paul to a congregation in the city of Corinth. There was a conflict going on there because some of those good church people thought that they were better than other members of the church family. They were spiritual snobs. It’s to these folks that Paul addresses his reminder of what love is.

“Love is patient; love is kind,” he says in part. “Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.”

If we had a referendum here and asked people whether those words represented a fair approximation of love in their view, I feel confident that it would win by a landslide.

But a funny thing often happens to love when it comes time to share it: It runs into a brick wall called us.

At least, I know that’s what happens in my case. I read what Paul has to say about love and, realizing that it has application not only to my relations with other church members, but also with my wife and children, the young man I call my soon-in-law, and with the whole great world, I resolve to be loving. I promise myself that I’ll not envy others or be a braggart and generally, avoid all the rotten things that Paul says are emphatically not characteristic of love. I resolve that I will be humble, kind, considerate, and patient. Two seconds after I make my resolution, I blow it in one way or another.

Which leads me back to this business of importation or downloading. When I blow it again in my life, I realize again what I need to do. I need to ask God to fill me with love I simply cannot muster on my own. And a God Who went to a cross and rose from death, all because of His passionate and unconditional love for us, is fully capable of filling us with the love we need to make our marriages and other important relationships work.

After nearly thirty-one years of marriage, this is one thing that I have learned: The best way to begin a marriage is by asking God to help us to love each other fully and unconditionally, even when we may be displeased with one another. And the best way to keep it going and strong is by asking God to help us love each other fully and unconditionally, even when we may be displeased with one another.

As we’ve been reminded today, the two of you have taken long journeys to get to this point. I’m happy to be here with you for this part of it and we all pray that it will be a lifelong happy trip for you and your families. But if I could summarize my message for you today, it would be this: Go into the import business. Keep importing God’s love into your lives and your marriage and the wonderful love that exists between you today will only keep growing!

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