1 Corinthians 13
New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Faith, hope and love….and the greatest is love.
The scripture above is often used at weddings to remind the husband and wife of the importance of love. It also, if you will, gives a sort of job description of how that love is manifested in the life of the married couple.
It, however, is not only a prescription for happiness for two people. It is also a job description for each of us as we live our lives in this world.
I have given much thought to how I respond to the things that are happening in our world today, particularly in our country. I was motivated to begin this blog to express concerns, share information, and, most of all restore a sense of honor to the dialogue.
I wanted to provide information to correct falsehoods and prevent the spread of outright lies. I wanted to bring the focus to the things that were True. I wanted to restore the civil discourse that will help us solve problems and live up to what our system of government was designed to do. I still want to do that.
The discourse in this country has unfortunately deteriorated. We are human and succumb to this because we are flawed human beings. I am no different. I have spoken in anger and on occasion when my anger takes over I have, on very few occasions but on occasion nonetheless, assisted in spreading information that is not true. I have, I believe, on each of those occasions apologized and set the record straight.
I was listening to a podcast from Truth for Life by Alistair Begg and was struck by how the Truth in the Bible IS for life. It is a sort of “how to” manual for us to be what God intends for us to be.
I have long thought about how one handles speaking truth when it is unpleasant. Does the passage above mean that we just ignore anything done to us that harms us? I don’t think so, but let’s look closer.
1 Peter 2:21-24
New International Version (NIV)
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
This brought to mind a blog post a friend shared some time back. It was basically a chastisement to Christians who were highly vocal about what is happening in this country. The bottom line was that God is in control, He will determine the outcome, and if you are a person who has placed your faith in His promises you should basically stop complaining, don’t worry and be happy.
Well there is a certain amount of Truth in that. However, I remember thinking that it somehow lets us “off the hook” to speak out about things that we need to address. So, what about:
New International Version (NIV)
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus at the Temple
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
In the podcast I was listening to, Alistair Begg, poses the question: “If Christ was the embodiment of the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians, how could He do such a thing” To which Alistair points out:
“He was not reacting on that occasion to any sense of self-provocation, not to any maligning of himself or any impinging upon himself in any sense of wrongdoing, but He was reacting to the profaning of His Father’s house. And His anger was not provoked by any sense of personal abuse but by a concern for God’s glory.”
He goes on to also point out that when the Apostle Paul expressed righteous indignation it was not a result of his personal injury but because of the distortion of the Truth and the presence of immorality.
It seems that when Christians express this righteous indignation regarding the distortion of Truth and the presence of behavior that is contrary to our beliefs we are immediately instructed to shut up. We are told that it does not harm us personally so we need to be tolerant. If we persist in expressing our belief that certain behaviors harm us all we are told we are hate-filled bigots. PLEASE note I am not talking about the behavior of the people of the Westboro Baptist Church. I am talking about that very difficult task of speaking the Truth in Love.
The next part of the job description of Agape love he addresses is: Love keeps no record of wrongs. Which brought to mind Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Love does not keep a ledger of all the wrongs ever done. It does not store in their memory banks the account of wrongs received.
He shares that in the field of anthropology one can find communities that were primarily either feasting or fighting. So, they always had a great pot boiling so as to be prepared for the feast but they also attached to themselves the reminders of their feuds. When they were home they would hang them from their roofs and when they journeyed they would hang them from their belts.
Or, in the words of Paul Simon in The Boxer:
In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
So it is with persons such as this that when you meet them there is every evidence on their person that they had been wronged.
“Have you ever met somebody like that?” Alistair asks. “Things that should have long ago been discarded are hanging from their belts.”
When we become people like this we tend to keep record of those wrongs….and we like them. One of the most difficult things we face is learning to forgive and learning what it is we should forget. He asks, “Why is it so easy to forget what we need to remember, and so easy to remember what you need to forget?”
Which leads me to my final struggle for the purposes of this post.
There are two stories I like to share with the children I tell stories to. The first is the Three Little Pigs (a version I’ve adapted) and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (told from the perspective of the wolf.)
Prior to sharing the stories I talk to them about what might happen if they and another child get into a fight or some sort of trouble. We discuss that the adult in charge will, in most cases, ask each child for their version of what happen. I also share that, as humans, we tend to avoid making ourselves look bad, so our version of the truth might be a bit off. After sharing the stories I ask the children, “who do you think is telling the truth?”
I’ve gotten some interesting replies which lead to even greater discussions. However, one of the things I want them to think about is looking deeper into the characters…the character of the characters as well as the reality of who they are.
I believe the fact that a wolf was created to be a meat eater as opposed to a vegetarian makes his claim that he was not intending to harm the pigs a bit suspect. The fact that he ate other tasty animals prior to this occasion is an important fact to remember. And, if in the past he has also lied about it is important to remember while deciding if you trust his version.
So, my question is this: Do we dismiss all facts and evidence that will allow us to decide whether or not Truth is being distorted or whether something is immoral and therefore damaging to our society? Do we “forget” what man is capable of when given infinite power and control over others? Do we forget the mistakes that have been made that have harmed others…or do we learn from them?
I find it almost incomprehensible how many people in our country can “forget” the atrocities committed by those who espoused, and espouse today, the philosophies such as Marxism and Communism and yet, at the same time, keep a record of every wrong committed by people who subscribe to a conservative Christian world view.
I find it equally astonishing that the three Christian pastors mentioned above have not only kept a record of wrongs but they have actively and, I believe, maliciously, continued to keep the pain alive and fuel the hate.
So, it is not difficult to realize that the Agape love job description for us as individuals is a difficult one to follow, but our individual salvation depends upon it. Individual salvation not collective salvation.
So, I agree with John Adams. Our Constitutional Republic was made for a moral and religious people. When we see honor, honesty, integrity and other foundational values being compromised we WILL see the deterioration of the protections afforded to us by our Founding Documents. But the name of my blog says it all: Restoring honor starts here….here with me….with each individual. So, I will continue to strive to follow the job description God has laid out for me…even if it is difficult and even if I sometimes fail.