Saturday, August 27, 2016

How can we love?

[This was shared during the marriage ceremony of Rebecca and Mike earlier today.]

1 Corinthians 13
Another translation puts the last two verses of that passage like this: “...for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

These words written back in the first century by the apostle Paul weren’t originally addressed to two people getting married. They were written to a local congregation in the Greek city of Corinth, a congregation torn to pieces by some people thinking they were all that because they had money and power and certain spiritual gifts. They looked down their noses at everyone else. The congregation was falling apart for lack of love.

There are many marriages that fall apart for lack of love, too.

The funny thing about that though, is that every couple who stands before God and a congregation of people like you are right now, Mike and Rebecca, love each other.

The problem is that they often don’t understand what love is.

They don’t reckon with how hard it is to love, to keep love going.

Did you hear the description of love that Paul gave in those verses from 1 Corinthians 13?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love, it turns out, isn’t just about or even mainly about how we feel. Love is composed of the decisions we make day in and day out for the good of the people we’re committed to: husband, wife, friend, sibling, parent, child, grandparent, church member, coworker.

It's as true of love as C.S. Lewis said it was of humility: The person who loves doesn’t think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.

That way of thinking and living doesn’t come to us naturally.

And yet, I think that we all would agree, without love--self-giving, self-sacrificing love--no relationship--marriage, family, friendship, what have you, will not work.

The question for you then, Rebecca and Mike, is how can you do the impossible? How can you love in ways that, in your own power, you are incapable of loving?

The answer is to be found in those two other things that Paul says will “remain” no matter what happens to any of us: faith and hope.

They will remain long after the crucified and risen Jesus has made things “complete” by bringing down the curtain on this old universe created by and through Him, fully establishing His eternal kingdom in which all who have daily turned from sin and surrendered to Him will live eternally.

Hang with me here just a few more moments, now.

That other translation I mentioned earlier describes faith as “trust[ing] steadily in God.” That means this: Every time you mess up, every time good stuff happens, every time you sin, every time you hit a brick wall, every time you enjoy success, every time you have an argument, every time you make up, every time you have a good time together, every time you cry together, keep trusting in the God we see in Jesus Christ.

Jesus promises those who trust in Him, “I am surely with you always.” He also promises that those who stand firm with Him won’t only be saved from sin and death, but also from futile living.

That other translation also says to “hope unswervingly.” This isn’t about hoping in things or people or events. Things like: “I hope we don’t run out of food at the reception.” “I hope it doesn’t rain just as everyone is getting there for the wedding.” “I hope that everyone gets along at their tables.”

Statements like those probably have more in common with wishing and worrying than they do with hoping. No, to hope, to really hope, is to bet everything, your whole life, your marriage on the God we meet in Jesus Christ.

To hope in Christ is to know that this world really doesn’t offer much to hope for. Money is nice, for example, but it can’t give you life. A house is great, but it won’t give your life meaning. Even being married to a person you care for is great, but it won’t make you whole.

Only Jesus Christ, the One Who made you and died on the cross for you and claimed life again at Easter for you, can fill your life with hope. He’s the only One worth hoping in.

The follower of Jesus can say things like, “Today was sort of sucky. But I belong to Christ forever.” “The sunset on the beach is beautiful, but it’s only a faint hint of the beauty Christ has for me in eternity and the beauty of His love for me right this moment.”

How can you find the love you need to make your marriage all that you want it to be and that God wants it to be, Mike and Rebecca?

Trust in God steadily.

Hope in Christ unswervingly.

And let Christ fill you with the love you need to have a good marriage, a solid marriage...a marriage filled with love.

And then, to help you love each other, forgive each other, strengthen each other, enjoy each other as God intends, connect with a church home that will help you to live with faith, hope, and love your whole life through. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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