Flights of Faith

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Someone asked me recently, "What is love?"
While my head immediately bounced along with my mind to the first few bars of the Haddaway classic, I knew exactly where to go. Google, unfortunately. And I looked up one of the most famous verses from the Bible and one of my favorites: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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."

I'll add memorizing that to my resolution list. Here's some context:

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

My friend guessed the verse and then repeated a critique he has of me. "See, that book thinks for you." I did not wince or pout. I have heard this before from him and, quite honestly, I have been expecting it more from others. As I've developed in college, I've found my answers becoming His answers. On the surface, it is not a good or bad thing. A lot of people quote from the Bible and do not believe the words they repeat. But just as I feel my love alone will never be strong enough, I do not ever think my independent description of love will be strong enough either. The position of my heart and spirit is reflected in my position in the Word. Alignment. It is what I seek.

I read those words and they fill me up. Church scandals, a broken Gospel, "American Christianity," and a wounded world with privileged Christians sitting around do not take the power of these words away. They matter.

The words matter.

IS patient, kind, rejoices with the truth
IS NOT envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, a record keeper of rights and wrong, a delighter in evil
ALWAYS protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres

I love explicating this a bit and examining always. I do not think there is a contradiction here. It's not that love will sometimes be impatient. It's that love can be demonstrated in a way where patience will be a non-factor, so to speak. But in every circumstance of love there is protection, trust, hope, and perseverance. Isn't that awesome? Or is it frightening? What if we were asked to examine our every action in this way? I'd love to live in that thoughtful and considerate world. I'd also have to radically change my behavior. It is not just the protection of our individual selves, trusting in ourselves, hoping for ourselves, persevering for ourselves. It is about a community. There are so many times when my demonstrations of love are merely demonstrations of self-worship, favoritism, nepotism, a self-seeking love, a love those who comfort me, a love for those i want to impress. Something this verse directly speaks against. The love I practice most is love for rewards, and not spiritual ones. It is a broken love that, frankly, does not deserve to be called love at all. I hope I have moved away from that more and more but I know that I have not.

Caring about others is being obedient. The status of the world as living or living dead matters to our hearts and our individual walks toward Christ. Being outward focused is not the opposite of finding Christ in our own personal compartmentalized hearts. He is everywhere. We can find Him anywhere. These are the spaces where we must meet Him. Everywhere we go. And doing one thing is not the answer. It is about integration. It is about balance. A complex love. Paul took fifty-seven words to describe this Love. In my mind, it takes two births and two deaths to fully understand it, Jesus' life and our own. It takes a lot of thinking. And only a Living book that is followed with open ears to the sounds of life, something also Written by Him, is helpful in this aim. Words that are not merely read, but felt and believed.

So, is it thinking for me? For me, that question is all wrapped up in semantics and unhelpful theology. Ultimately, I know the Light inside me is thinking against my own shadows of a former self. And words seen and robotically understood destroys the gift of free will while also presenting an ideal notion of obedience of a sovereign God. However, I do not resent that robot. I simply know I am not it. I am not supposed to be it. I am human for a reason. One that He knows and I am still figuring out.

"Can I put it in my own words?"

Love is the only hope we have for peace, justice, and reconciliation.
Love makes us extend ourselves outside of our bodies and think about others, seen and unseen.
Love is the healing embrace we feel in times of despair and brokenness. Love urges us not to call that moment the end.
Ultimately, love is what keeps us going on in the present and love provides hope for the future.

That's what I believe.
And that's how I'm trying to live.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Blogger Danielle said...

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10:49 PM  

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