Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love Is....

I’ve been thinking about something recently. Have you noticed lately that people in our culture seem to have lost the niceties of social graces? People say whatever pops into their heads, whether it’s appropriate or not, with no thought for how their words may affect the other person. Rudeness reigns. The sad part is that it seems that many do not even realize they are being rude. Then, on the other hand, we also live in the society of the perpetually offended. Everything is seen as an offense, it seems. That can be a rather toxic mix.

Perhaps someone says something that, in my sinful flesh, I find to be rude and have to fight not to take offense, and my unkind gut reaction thought is, “Really, you just met me and you went with that?” Am I going to chose not to be offended and put the best construction on it? Or perhaps someone tailgates me the whole way through the neighborhood when I’m going the speed limit or cuts me off in traffic, and my gut level reaction is a flare of anger. Will I choose to think the best and fight off that unrighteous anger or will I let that anger ruin my afternoon? Or suppose someone says something on my social media feed that just irritates me. Will I scroll on by and ignore it or even say something kind in response, or will I engage in one of those ugly internet comment wars and assume the other person’s intent is evil and insist that I must be right and have the final say? Or, what if someone in my family says or does something that just plain gets up my nose? Will I choose to be offended or lash out in anger or give them the cold shoulder, or will I choose to love and extend grace and seek to look beyond the behavior to the heart and lovingly address heart issues? 

As someone who wants to follow Jesus, and who sees Him as more important than anything else, I don’t have the right to be offended at trivial things, not even at a lapse in social graces. If possible, as much as it depends on me, I must be at peace with all (Romans 12:18-21).  I am not to think more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3). Love is to be genuine, and I’m to love others with brotherly affection (Romans 12:9-10). I’m to keep loving one another because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). I’m to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than myself, looking not to my own interests but to also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). I am to entrust myself in the midst of unjust treatment (real or perceived) to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).   Preaching the truth to my heart and mind. 

The hard thing of it is, when given the opportunity to remember these things, I find there is still so much of that monster, pride, in my heart. If I’m really honest, deep down I want to say something to correct the rude comment or treatment and to enjoy my self-centered sense of offense and stew over it for a bit or even to exaggerate its offense in my mind. True confession, there is much more of that in me than I want there to be. To walk with Jesus is to die daily to ourselves. In times like this, that self that rears up in me is just downright ugly. But Jesus says we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. (Luke 6:27-28) That little unintentionally rude comment or misbehavior in traffic or internet comment or frustrating behavior was NO WHERE NEAR as bad as any of those things, so who am I to hold a grudge or refuse to overlook it? 

So, in this day of lost social graces on the one hand and perpetual offense on the other, here’s where I must choose to camp and ponder and park: 

“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 wrong doing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Easy? No, it’s not easy to die to what I want, especially when it’s a deep-seated, self-centered want. But when I am praying for God to lead me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake, it is right. How thankful I am for Jesus, my great High Priest who is ever interceding for me. By His grace, and only by His grace can I walk the road He leads me on. And here there is joy. Why joy? Because my ultimate aim is to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called me out of darkness into light. I have received such mercy from God (1 Peter 2:9-10). I have entrusted myself, my wayward, wandering sheep of a self to the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul (1 Peter 2:25). Ponder that for a moment. There is joy unspeakable in knowing such a Savior, who has made me clean and who empowers me to slay that monster pride every time it rears its ugly head. And I want other people to know that joy and to walk in His light, too. 

In this day of lost social graces and perpetual offense, let us choose love, the love that dies to self and lives to Christ. 

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