A couple years ago someone asked me if I’m a loving person. Well, I figured I was a pretty loving guy but I knew that my answer had to appear humble so I knew I had to depreciate myself a bit. But I was also unwilling to put myself down so much that I would come off like a scum bag. So I went with a safe answer: “I’m not as loving as I should be”. I thought it was a great response. it implied that “yes I am loving but I have room to grow”, as well as giving the impression that I was self aware of that fact. My answer was really just a verbal pat on the back. This person then directed me to 1 Corinthians 13:4-6:
“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 with the truth.”
I was pretty familiar with this text because it has been read at just about every wedding I’d ever been to. After reading it I still felt a slight smugness as if I was doing ok when it comes to living up to standards of love. Then I was asked to read it out loud substituting “Jesus” for “love”.
“Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
That makes sense right? Jesus is God, God is love so we could substitute Jesus’ name here. As Christians, little Christ’s, followers of The Way, People of the Book, disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to imitate Jesus. We are to take up our cross daily and represent our Lord. In light of this, I was then asked to read the passage out loud again, but this time I was to substitute my own name for the word love and then I finally understood.
“Parker is patient and kind; Parker does not envy or boast….”
Man, that is still so convicting that I don’t even want to type it all out. I want to encourage you to do the same. Read this passage out loud with your own name substituted in place of love. Try it with your boyfriend or girlfriend’s name. Yikes, right?
My goal is not to ruin your day or make you feel terrible. My goal is self awareness, both for you and for me. God calls us to love Him with our everything and to love our neighbor’s as ourselves and He gives us a standard for love, His Son, Jesus Christ.
Acts 17 tells us that God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” God is going to judge the world based on His standard of love which is His son, Jesus. How do you compare? When you read the passage with your own name inserted, are you confident in your ability to love? Do you feel anything other than conviction? God says be perfect, Love perfectly, and we have all failed and fallen short of His command.
But wait! Before you despair, there’s good news of great joy for all of us. While Christ is the standard that we’ve all failed to live up to, he’s also the Rock of our salvation. Although we have transgressed God’s love, He has made a way for us to be saved from our transgression and His way is… Love.
God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loves us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved. For greater love has no man than this, that a man laid down his life for his friends. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5, John 15:13, John 3:16, Romans 10:9)
Christ is the standard for which we will all be judged. Christ is our salvation by which all who call on him will be saved. And for Christians, Christ continues to be our standard for living and growing in spiritual maturity.
As the Apostle Paul writes: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:1-7).
We are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. What’s our calling? We have been called by God to follow Christ daily as we take up our cross. We walk in humility and gentleness, according to Christ’s example of humility and gentleness. Christ is our standard for Christian ethics. How then shall we live? As Christ, for to live is Christ and to die is gain!
Again the Apostle Paul says: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11- 16)
What does it mean to be a mature Christian? Attaining to the knowledge of the Son of God. We are measured by the fullness of Christ’s stature. We are to grow in our likeness of Christ. The church body is to grow by building itself up in love. How do we measure our sanctification? How do we know if we are growing in love? We look to Christ Jesus. Do we act more like Jesus? That’s the question of sanctification. Do we view the Bible the way Jesus does? Do we love God the Father the way Jesus does? Do we depend on the Holy Spirit the way Christ did in his earthly ministry? Do we love our neighbors as Christ does? We are called to be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
God made mankind out of love. Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. Our Greatest command is to Love God and our neighbor. Because of sin, we have all fallen short of the command to love. God, because of His great love, sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life of obedience and love, and to lovingly die on a cross for the sins of the world. Anyone who does not turn from their sins and believe on Jesus for their forgiveness stands condemned already. They will be judged in righteousness on the standard of Christ’s perfect love. For anyone who confesses that Christ is Lord and believes In their heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved and united with Christ in love. By God’s Holy Spirit, He will continue the good work that He started in us by working all things together for the good of those who love Him. And what is this good work but that we who love him should be transformed into the image of His son, Jesus Christ.
So Christ is the standard by which all will be judged, Christ is the way of salvation for all who believe, Christ is our example for how we ought to live everyday, Christ is the end goal of our progressive sanctification, and Christ is our ultimate reward.
Jesus Christ is love.