Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 14

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Always Hopes.

“Hope,” wrote Victor Hugo, “is the word which God has written on the brow of Every Man.” That is a thought-provoking description of hope. Primarily, it explains hope as a gift from God imprinted upon each of us. Hope offers us clarity to see through the fog of the finite and of the distressing. It pictures hope blazing before us like a headlamp giving us purpose for the paths we take in life. Without hope, we wander in the dark, experiencing all manner of griefs. And without hope, the human spirit withers, disintegrates, and eventually dies.

Hope is a notion the Bible addresses frequently; it conveys the recurring motif of a unique and specific hope: not a groundless, useless or foolish hope, but one of certainty; not hope centred on wishful thinking or on anything arising from this world, but hope centred entirely upon God.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?” asks the prophet Isaiah, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Biblical hope is based entirely upon the self-revelation of God—what He has told us about Himself that impacts our existence. This hope is comprised of three things: God’s character, God’s creative works, and God’s vision for His creation.

To explore this hope, we begin by asking, ‘What has God revealed to us about His character that gives us hope?’ Several things. He is the eternal, uncreated, always-existing One, in whom is no caprice or fickleness, so we can rely fully upon Him; He has supreme power to accomplish all that He purposes, so He never makes a mistake; He is good and His acts toward humanity arise from this goodness, so we can trust Him; He is personal—fully accessible to us when we submit to an all-consuming relationship with Him, so we can interact with Him; and He is loving—gracious, compassionate, patient, comforting, strengthening and desiring of each of us to develop our eternal potential, so we can find fulfillment in Him.

Secondly, we must ask, ‘What has God revealed to us about His creative works that gives us hope?’ He created the universe out of nothing by His command—He spoke and it was; all energy and all matter arise from Him and He sustains all His creation by His own power; we humans are the apex of His creative work, designed to reflect such aspects of God that we alone of His creation are said to bear “the image of God” and thus are incredibly valuable to Him. He is in the midst of creating an unimaginable eternity for those who choose to be in relationship with Him.

And thirdly, we must ask, ‘What has God revealed to us about His vision for His creation?’ God created humans to have the gift of free will—we are not programmed robots doing God’s bidding without any choice in the matter. This is a difficult concept for us to understand, but perhaps it is because automatons cannot be in relationship with their Maker, cannot house the dignity that God designed us to contain. While each of us humans have misused our free will and rebelled in some way against Him (which He knew would happen even before making us), God set in motion a solution. He devised a ransoming rescue for humanity’s self-destructive rebellion: the dying and resurrecting Jesus. God’s vision is for a community tied so closely in relationship with Himself (as Father, as Jesus, and as the Holy Spirit) and with one another that we are to be called the “body of Christ.” And finally, God reveals to us His vision for an eternity in which we are completely unified in Him, accomplishing for Him and through Him glorious tasks as yet untold.

How does this all relate to love? We’ve been exploring the love chapter of I Corinthians 13 and we need to find the connection. How is it that “love always hopes”? It comes back to God (as everything ultimately does). God is love embodied, and God is the source of all hope. We cannot separate hope from love. A full understanding of God’s love for us is all-important—even non-negotiable—to experiencing real life-giving hope. Hoping in God is the only cure for the weariness that comes from disillusionment with this world. God’s promise to lovingly redeem even our worst situations to bring about ultimate good for those who love Him is the hope to which we must cling.

So let’s step into this day with a new reason for certain hope. Let’s be people who exude confidence because we are loved by the One who gives us the assurance that all will be well. So then, it is well, and it is well with our soul.

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Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 13

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Always Trusts.

Taking something at face value can be instinctive. It can be an almost unconscious reflex to unthinkingly react to the surface appearance of something. Yes (we admit later, when we are in a more reflective mood), we failed to employ deep thought and discernment but it seemed efficient at the time to just ‘see and do’ or ‘hear and say.’ Author Os Guinness tells the story of the blatantly chauvinistic Norman Mailer’s invitation to speak at the University of California Berkeley in the early 1970s amid a crowd of young feminists. Recognizing the brewing friction, Mailer invited his adversaries to speak up.

“Everybody in this hall,” invited Mailer, “who regards me as a male chauvinist pig, hiss.” “As if perfectly on cue,” chronicles Guinness, “the feminists broke out at once in loud, derisive hissing and booing…Mailer stepped back to the microphone, looked over to them, paused just a second or two, and said, ‘Obedient little women, aren’t you?’ (To sanitize his words somewhat).” Rather than freeing them from Mailer’s misogynistic domination, the audience’s surface reaction had reinforced their rival’s potency.

God is not like that. He never encourages superficial thought or action. Perhaps that is why our species contains little of the instinct the other creatures on this planet possess. Rather, God provides humans with the ability to access a higher-level process of thinking and problem solving; we observe something in our environment, we reason so as to fit this information into a coherent worldview, and finally we respond with fitting emotions and actions. The deliberate and conscious use of each of these steps will help us delve deeper and respond more wisely than superficially reacting to prima facie stimuli.

As we explore the ‘Love Chapter’ of I Corinthians 13, we come to the phrase “love…always trusts.” What does that word ‘trust’ mean? Is it blind hope in the midst of hopelessness? Is it a crutch for the slow-witted and aged? Is it nothing more than Marx’s “opium of the people”? No, God never invites shallow, mind-numbing confidence.

The word ‘trust’ is translated from a Greek word meaning to believe in someone or something to such an extent that one entrusts oneself to the not yet fully fulfilled promises of that person or thing. Wedding this definition with the above-mentioned higher-level process of problem solving, we can understand the Corinthian phrase better—but only if God is the sole object of our trust. To “always trust” then means to observe the love and faithfulness of God toward people—most notably in the ransoming achievement of Jesus’ death and resurrection; then it means to reason that God will for eternity personalize that faithfulness individually to each of us who embrace His gift (we call this ‘saving belief’); and thirdly, it means to respond with emotions of thankfulness, faith, and joy which lead us into actions aligned with our well-reasoned belief.

Scripture is teeming with reminders to trust in God:

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness…You who fear him, trust in the LORD” (Psalm 115:1,11).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6).

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’…” (Isaiah 30:15).

“Then Jesus answered…Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).

We are never called to trust in people, situations, or things, only in God. Therefore, among the aspects of love described in I Corinthians 13 that can be generalized to teach us how to love both God and people well, trust is the first trait whose object is restricted. God alone is worthy of our trust. God is emphatic about this, because He knows that the object of our trust intrinsically influences us. God wants that position because He is Sovereign, and because only He can bring ultimate good into our lives. When we trust in people, social movements, finances, or anything other than God Himself to meet our needs, we will become disappointed and even jaded. We will become less and less of who God designed us to be and eventually we will be unable to trust anything or anyone at all.

Love—embodied in God—invites us to trust in God. Love encourages us to entrust everything from our daily moments to our lifelong hopes into His care. And as we practice this trust day by day we will develop the ability to respond to life’s successes and defeats, its joys and sorrows, with depth and wisdom. And the more we trust in God, the more we will be able to love people around us well. So take the leap and become known as one who “always trusts.”

(Photo Credit: Meghan Bustard Photography)

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 12

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Always Protects.

Love always protects. We know that. It’s an intuitive, maybe even an instinctive knowledge that when we love someone, we want to protect them. Anything that threatens a loved one’s welfare arouses our concern and prompts us to react in some way. We call it the ‘mother bear’ response; there is nothing angrier than a mother bear that rightly or wrongly perceives a threat approaching her cubs.

“Anger,” explains author Timothy Keller, “is a form of …(and) the result of love. It is energy for defense of something you love when it is threatened. If you don’t love something at all, you are not angry when it is threatened. If you love something a little, you get a little angry when it is threatened. If something you love is an ‘ultimate concern’ if it is something that gives you meaning in life, then when it is threatened you will get uncontrollably angry.”

If Keller’s observation is accurate, it sheds some interesting insight into the loves of our life. Our anger—one expression of our instinct to protect what we love—becomes a gauge by which we can recognize and measure our loves. Road rage indicates how much we love our autonomy on the roadways, our ‘right’ to move unhindered in that mechanical-social space. Family violence indicates how much we love our selfish ‘rights’, our desire to have our own way in the more intimate social environment of our homes. Constructive anger aimed at injustices against the poor and needy—those who can never repay us—indicates a level of selfless love most similar to the Bible’s description of the protection that characterizes God.

The great theme running through every page of the Bible is God’s expression of loving protection for the human race. It starts with creating a world that contains everything human beings would need to sustain life, limb, and a flourishing relationship with God Himself. But very soon it becomes obvious that God’s gift of freewill to His human creatures allows each of us to get ourselves into messes of mortal danger—danger arising from the sin-wounded world, our sin-stained selves, and the sin-tempting evil one. So God enacts His perfect plan to offer ultimate protection to our souls: He presences Himself as a living, breathing flesh-and-bones man to take upon Himself the danger and trouble we earned. Only this one sinless God-Man could do this for us—allow Himself to be slain like a she-bear to protect His young from evil.

C.S. Lewis pictures this significant event as the lion Aslan shorn and slaughtered on the great stone table by the White Witch. Then, in a surprise twist to the assumed outcome, He who is Life Immortal conquers death’s venom by his indomitable spirit and offers it to us as a gift called salvation. This is the quintessence and epitome of God’s love, a love that “always protects.”

Listen to how the psalmist puts it: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart…If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91:1-4,9).

There will still be illnesses and wounds on this earth. There will continue to be injustices and wars, famines and terrors of many kinds. We will all face death. But for those who accept Jesus’ great gift, who entrust themselves to Him, and make Him the daily dwelling of their souls, there is the surety of protection from ultimate harm.

So how do we expropriate this aspect of love that always protects? First, we must entrust ourselves to Jesus, the only completely loving and protecting One. His love must infiltrate our hearts in order that we may rightly love others.

Secondly, we must take inventory of our own tendencies in expressing anger, specifically toward others. We must ask whether our own outbursts of protection and anger are against people or against evil. If it is aimed at people, it shows us that our love of ourselves has come to take precedence over all other love. We prefer self-protection to protecting others.

Thirdly, we must find ways to overcome the evil that threatens others, by doing good. “Love your enemies,” directs Jesus, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Copy Jesus. This is how love always protects.

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 11

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Rejoices With the Truth.

“(It) is as temperamental as an opera singer,” complained John L. Smith, chemist and executive of Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company, regarding a new drug soon to be on the market. “The yields are low, the isolation is difficult, the extraction is murder, the purification invites disaster, and the assay is unsatisfactory.” But Smith and his retinue recognized and rejoiced in its unprecedented value: They were referring to penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic. Infections up to that time had resulted in a multitude of unnecessary suffering and early deaths. Now they could be treated. World War II was producing untold casualties but now penicillin would save many of those lives.

The author of I Corinthians 13—the Bible’s Love Chapter—explains that love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” We have observed that God designed our hearts to delight, to experience pleasure to such an extent that we become bound to what we delight in. We have agreed that delighting in evil puts us into a bondage that eventually results in our own disintegration. It also ultimately destroys all relationships with others, especially our relationship with God. So the author explains how we avoid that outcome. We rejoice with the truth.

To rejoice with the truth means three things. It requires accepting, it requires recognizing, and it requires submitting. Firstly, rejoicing with the truth necessitates that we accept the exclusive nature of truth. If something is true, then by necessity its opposite must be untrue. If it is nighttime in Paris, it cannot also be daytime there. If the sun is ninety million miles from earth, it is not also immeasurably distant from earth. If penicillin destroys bacteria, it does not also support those same bacteria. This is the nature of truth. Its exclusivity enables us to separate things that are true from things that are false, deceiving and erroneous. Think about it. The very fabric of our society is built on accepting truth—from the realms of law, science, research and education to engineering and construction—even down to assembling our IKEA furniture—we accept the existence and value of truth. Everything we absorb through our five senses or manipulate with our bodies we test to ensure what we are seeing and hearing is true.

Secondly, rejoicing with the truth necessitates recognizing truth when it appears. When data is measurable, it is relatively easy to recognize truth from error. We pay for a product with cash and immediately recognize if the change we are given is accurate—if the cashier’s accounting is true or false. Some truths, though, are more difficult to ascertain: when two individual’s claim exclusive ownership of the same object, or in the application of certain laws that are conflicting, truth must be recognized and discerned in order to know how to act in line with truth.

Thirdly, rejoicing with the truth necessitates submitting to truth’s demands. We cannot manipulate truth to satisfy our whims without the result of becoming dishonest and reaping its twisted harvest. “You cannot go against the grain of the universe,” advises C.S. Lewis, “and not expect to get splinters.” The concept of submitting to truth brings us to the pinnacle of our discussion of truth. Truth is bound up in a Person, Jesus Christ who called Himself “the truth.” Submitting to truth ultimately brings us to the necessity of submitting our intellect and worldview to God, the author and sustainer of all truth.

As we do these three difficult tasks we find something extraordinary beginning to happen. When we accept truth we accept Jesus (and vice versa). When we recognize truth for what it really is, we will recognize the deity and Lordship of Jesus. To fully submit to truth is to submit to Jesus. Jesus is the kingpin of Truth. To grasp Jesus is to fully grasp truth. As He Himself explained, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus brings expanding freedom for us, not the shackling restrictions and limitations we had feared when we were distant from truth and from Him.

And that is not all. When we come into community with Jesus, we find Him to be joy incarnate. He is the epitome of gladness and exultation, of true happiness and delight. This is why the author of I Corinthians 13 says that love “rejoices with the truth.” Rejoicing “with” is all about relationship. Christ’s unbounded joy as Maker of the Universe is only exceeded by His joy in ransoming those of us who were lost in the personal darkness of deception and rebellion to truth.

So come to Truth and rejoice with Him. This is what we were designed for. This is love.

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 9

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Keeps No Record of Wrongs.

Have you ever wondered how many criminal records exist worldwide? It would be an all-consuming occupation keeping tabs on all those cases, the many individuals who have been guilty of a spectrum of misdeeds over the years. Those records of wrongs remind us of the impact wrongs have had on society.

They speak to us of justice. Justice says that when one commits a wrong—serious enough to affect society negatively—there must be compensation that brings restitution to the victim, that perhaps punishes the perpetrator, and that hopefully acts as a deterrent to future wrong behaviour. Records of wrongs are a necessary part of our complex society, but necessary as they may be, they can be an evil too; they can cause undue hardship to individuals who have long since paid for their errors.

So when the writer of I Corinthians 13—the love chapter of the Bible—explains that love “keeps no record of wrongs” we may experience a variety of reactions. If we have been victims of wrongs done to us, our sense of justice rises up and demands “Not fair! Wrongdoing must have its consequences!” If we have been the perpetrator of wrongs, our sense of relief whispers “Whew—that was close!” And if we reject the concept of right and wrong, the whole notion of justice repels us as “an archaic concept put to rest at last!” But this insistence that love keeps no record of wrongs is much more complex than the variety of human responses to it. This affirmation reveals something about God Himself.

Two descriptors of God go uncontested by anyone who accepts the Bible as the revealed Word of God: that God is love, and that God is just. Psalm 103 combines these two great truths in several verses.

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…” and “…The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” There they are, justice and love. But look a little further. The psalmist goes on to say, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” What has happened here? God is extolled as loving, but what happened to justice? Can He just ignore transgressions, wrongs, and criminal offenses—removing them as far as the east is from the west? Can the murderer get off scott-free?

This is the place where we must come if we want to understand how love “keeps no record of wrongs.” This is as complex as the concept of ethics gets. God is not white-washing anything, but neither does He imagine any of us are capable of living perfect lives—even if it is the standard which He has imprinted upon our hearts. God solves the dilemma of both complete love and complete justice by incarnating Himself as a human; He arrives uniquely, He lives perfectly, and He dies a ransoming, redemptive death for all other humans. The record of wrongs we humans have acquired is destroyed in one fell swoop by a debt-paying exchange only God Himself could accomplish.

So when we read in I Corinthians 13 verse 5 “(love) keeps no record of wrongs,” let’s not imagine this is something we can accomplish in its grand fullness. It’s too big. It’s too impossible for mere humans like us. This is talking about Jesus! In fact, it’s all talking about Him. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. Jesus is not rude, is not self-seeking, and is not easily angered. Only Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Now we see what is being said here to the Corinthians. Jesus is the truest expression of love a human can have. We ourselves are so far from reaching that standard. And yet, He is gracious and calls us to come to Him, worship Him as our Redeemer and King, and invite Him to work His transforming work in us today. He promises those who submit to Him in this life that in the next life—for eternity—we will finally be like Him, able to keep no record of wrongs, able to truly love.

Today, our task is simple: We must live in community with others, treating them as if they had never done a single wrong. We must see our co-workers and family members, our bosses and local panhandlers as image-bearers of God Himself. We must treat each and every person on this planet with the dignity every human deserves. We may not agree with them, but honouring them does not signify concurring with their beliefs or behaviours. That is exactly how Jesus treats each of us—with dignity and respect. Loving like this is difficult—even impossible on our own, but we are not alone. Jesus is present and loves to work through us to love others, because we have much more to do today than keep records of wrongs.

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 8

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Is not Easily Angered.

We have read so far that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking…” Now we add “it is not easily angered.” It’s no surprise that the description of love as “not easily angered” falls close on the heels of “not self-seeking.” Anger is a close relative of the self-seeking behaviours.

From toddlerhood each of us develops extensive and creative systems for our own self-defense; its first expression is inevitably in the angry use of the word “No!” wielded with great authority from lips little more than novices in their own mother tongue. We learn early to defend our own self-determined plans and before long become masters at the task.

Self-defense—and by this I do not mean primarily physical protection of one’s self—is necessary when there is no one outside of ourselves to whom we can entrust the job of protection. If I see myself as the primary person responsible for guarding and fortifying the value of me (my ideas, my hopes and my dreams), I must practice self-defense. I must build certain walls and barriers to protect my vulnerabilities from being discovered, and my plans from being hindered. And in some cases, when my defense warning system is deployed, a weapon must be wielded to ensure self-protection—I give vent to unmitigated anger.

“For many,” observes C.S. Lewis, “the great obstacle to (love) lies … in our fear—fear of insecurity.” We may not consciously admit it to ourselves, but we are afraid for our very lives and we’re scrabbling to cover that fear with bluster.

The Biblical directives toward restraining anger are not external and superficial fixes. They are not commands to control our rage on the outside, while we continue to seethe and smolder or shake and shiver within. They get to the root of the problem, to our inner need to solve the problem of our insecurity. Let’s be ruthlessly honest: none of us is capable of loving like this chapter in I Corinthians suggests. We are rightfully insecure to recognize how little capable of loving (not to mention living rightly) we truly are.

Jesus once explained to a couple of disconsolate travelers that Scripture is not a list of dos and don’ts. It is not quick fixes or fake smiles. Scripture is all about Himself, Jesus—it’s a picture of Him coming into our sad human condition and offering us something we can never create for ourselves. He is the great Rock and Shield who alone can defend and protect our inner selves. He gave the Emmaus Road travelers example after example, and the revelation opened their eyes and ears.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” they asked each other afterward in awe. This was not the burning of anger but the warmth and energy of Christ’s loving Spirit entering into their hearts and minds and souls. This was the great ‘ah hah’ moment; they finally understood that Christ was moving through history to ensure He would—in God’s perfect timing—die for all humanity to rescue us all from our great insecurity, and then rise to lead us to everlasting life.

Jesus is perfect love. He initiates loving us, and if we receive His overtures, we find ourselves dropping our guard and finding true inner rest. The events or persons or situations that used to anger us now fall more and more under the influence and authority of Jesus, our Protector.

So once more we find Jesus to be relevant to life. No more hiding behind ramparts, shooting angry darts at others and causing chaos all round. When we come to Jesus for love, we gradually learn to recklessly love others without defending ourselves. No need for anger. Anger never worked anyways.

(Photo Credit: By Darren Shilson from St Stephen, UK, United Kingdom (Pendennis Castle B+W Uploaded by oxyman) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Learning to Love (I Corinthians 13), Part 5

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Does Not Boast, Is Not Proud.

“That’s one small step for man,” the granular transmission of Neil Armstrong’s voice wavered, “one giant leap for mankind.” It was 1969 and Armstrong’s Teflon-booted feet had just stepped onto the surface of the untrodden moon. What was happening here? Was this project to put a man on the moon the natural expression of the ingenuity, curiosity, and wonder of the human species, or was it something less lofty? Critics view the Apollo 8 mission as an exorbitant and meticulous tactic in the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union to claim national superiority—to boast of being the best. Billions of dollars were spent to fortify that boast. Armstrong’s address implied more than a giant leap of scientific progress for all of humanity; it boasted supremacy.

National arrogance notwithstanding, what is it about boasting and pride that is a problem? The term ‘pride’ is commonly used in today’s culture with an almost virtuous ring to it. Merriam-Webster explains that the word has undergone semantic drift (an “evolution of usage resulting in changed meaning”). But there is something timeless about I Corinthians 13, something unabashed in maintaining, “love…does not boast, it is not proud.”

Biblical synonyms for pride are arrogance, conceit, and haughtiness. To be proud is to esteem one’s self-importance higher than one ought. But what do we mean by “ought”? Is there a higher authority than a person’s own judgment of herself, some higher bar that calls us to better choices, more authentic living? Bump up against an arrogant person and you will immediately experience the angst of an existential principle being violated. Why? Because you will recognize a proud person’s lack of love for his neighbour.

God is all about love. He is the full expression of love. “It’s,” explains Chris Webb (‘God-Soaked Life’), “his essential nature.” Having created our world as an articulation and demonstration of that love, God put an innate infrastructure within us that is synchronous with love. God’s purpose and focus in this universe is to create a community of unparalleled love through which He Himself lives, moves and has His being. We must love—we are made for it.

“(T)he crucial question is not whether we love or not;” explains Webb, “in the end we cannot escape our own nature. We will love. We’re helpless to do otherwise. No, the crucial question is this: what will we love—and what will our loving do to us and to the world around us?”

So our discomfort with pride—if we will admit it—is that it twists the proper focus and expression of love—the love that God designed us to have. It focuses love on oneself ultimately. Pride wants to lift up self, to put it on the plane of something to be worshiped, and to be unhindered in its behaviours as a deity would be. Boasting is merely the verbage that expresses the inner fomenting of pride.

The Apostle John comments on the problem of twisted love and its attendant pride and boasting. He warns, “—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:16,17).

It’s like turning on a lamp only to have the bulb flash, crackle, and then suddenly burn out. Have you experienced that? Some have called it the Edisonian-equivalent of a supernova. The flash and destruction of the light bulb is not a random, unexpected phenomenon; what has happened to the light bulb is a result of what has been happening inside the light bulb over a long period of time. Electric current passes through an incandescent bulb’s thin filament wire to produce heat and light while the filament becomes imperceptibly thinner. At first this thinning is just gradual, but over time the current flowing through the thinning tungsten filament produces heat that exceeds its operating temperature. In the case of our in-house ‘supernova’, the wire melts, a gap in the circuit is created, and a ‘tungsten arc’ flashes out the bulb’s final burst of light.

The thinning of the bulb’s filament is like pride. At first it’s almost unnoticeable. A thought here and there arises in our minds telling us ‘we are in control. We are the source of our power, our abilities and our successes. God may be out there, but we’d rather be independent of Him.’ Over time, though, there is a sort of runaway effect. The more we replace the presence of God with ourselves, the more we imagine our lives as self-determining, and the less we attend to our need for God to sustain us. Our filament-like souls become thinner and more fragile, but we are too busy thinking of the brightness we are creating.

Pride and boasting must be replaced with humility or we will self-destruct. God is love. He calls us to be filled with Himself but His love is only accessible if we come to Him in humility. The author of I Corinthians 13 recognizes that. He is giving us operating instructions for our human lives. When he explains that love “does not boast (and) is not proud” he is trying to help us see into ourselves and discern this uncomfortable truth. So let’s look at this aspect of our lives today and, God helping us, choose humility.

(Photo credit: By No machine-readable author provided. Dickbauch~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=583483)