Preaching the Word to Myself

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I write encouraging blog posts and put awesome quotes up on Facebook, if I use social media to post wise and pithy and correct things –
but don’t post or say or write those things from love, with love, in love, because of love, I am only as useful as the loudest noise pollution that exists.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

If I have all the answers to all the questions – masks, cures, racial tensions and reconciliation, the role of government, who should govern, how people should behave, even what the Bible says about ALL of these things –
but don’t love YOU, (with NO caveats or conditions – no matter who you are, what you look like, which side of the aisle you are one, how hateful you are acting, how much I disagree) – if I don’t LOVE you, I am nothing. NOTHING.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Even if I sacrificially give of my time, talent and treasure; even if my actions are correct; even if I am perfectly aligned in my deeds with the Word of God, but I don’t love EVERYONE, (with NO caveats or conditions – no matter who you are, what you look like, which side of the aisle you are one, how hateful you are acting, how much I disagree, how sinful your choices are or how much you don’t align with Scripture) –
I have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.
Even on social media.
Even when what you posted makes my blood boil.
Even when I cannot see it from your point of view.
Even as I engage with you in respectful conversation.
Even as we disagree.
Love is patient and kind.
I may evaluate your choices against the Word of God and understand that they don’t align with HIS thoughts and therefore, are sinful. But even then, I am patient and kind. Even then. Because “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2)

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
Ever.
Under any circumstances.
Regardless of my emotions.

It does not demand its own way.
It does demand God’s way – but His way is to love the sinner enough to die in his place – and to hate the sin with the same level of passion.
But it is never about my rights.
My feelings.
My point of view.
It is not about me.
It is about God. His point of view.
And about loving as He loves:
passionately for the sinner even as He is passionately against the sin.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
Love forgives. Again and again and again.
Speaking up against injustice?
Yes. That is love, too.

But always forgiving the perpetrators.
Always.

Every time.
Whether they asked for it or not.
Whether they deserve it or not.
You have been forgiven much.
You must forgive.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Loving the good actions, good results, good efforts.
Hating the bad.

But always loving the people.
Always.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
This is a fight.
Not against people.
Against the enemy of our souls.
Who is seeking to divide and conquer.
Seeking to destroy and devour.
Seeking to make the Church act like the world so that no one wants to be a part of the Body of Christ.
And he is succeeding.
Because we are letting him.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
Human wisdom always, always, always fails.
Godly wisdom, based on His Word, will never fail.
This world will burn.
The end will come.
And when the time of perfection comes, we will recognize how much He loves every tribe, tongue and nation of the world.
Every color of skin.
Every language.
Every culture.
And how much we didn’t love as we should have.
How much I didn’t love as I should have.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
I put away having to lash out at you because you didn’t understand.
I put away seeing you as the enemy.
I put away speaking the Truth without love and not speaking the Truth because of a misguided idea of love.
Instead I spoke and thought and reasoned the Truth in Love.
Saying the hard things.
But checking my heart first to see why I am saying it.
I put away seeing you first by your labels.
I can and will respect your labels. I can and will celebrate who you are and how God created you. The ways that are like me. And the ways that are not.
But first, and always, I will see you as someone created in the image of God.
Deeply loved by Him.
And in desperate need of knowing Him.
I put away my rights.
And lay down my life for you.
Because He laid down His life for me.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
The puzzle pieces are complex.
But Creator of the puzzle never asked me to figure it out.
He asked me to do three things:
Love Him.
Love others.
And make sure they ALL knew about Him.
ALL.

The ones who look like me.
And the ones who don’t.
The ones who share my culture.
And the ones who don’t.
The one who “get it”.
And the ones who don’t.
The ones who encourage me.
And the ones who infuriate me.
The ones that the enemy is freely, openly, blatantly using.
And the ones that he is freely, hiddenly, subtly using.
The ones who bear His name.

And the ones who don’t.
I have three jobs.
Am I doing them?
If I am focused on loving Him, the conduit between the Holy One and myself will remain open, unhindered by willful sin, and His love, wisdom, grace, mercy, compassion and joy will flow back through me and splash onto you.

If I am focused on loving you as He loves you, we will both be transformed for His glory. It will get messy because we are both sinners. But He will give me all I need to love you – and all you need to love me.

And if I am loving Him with all I am and loving you with all HE has, then telling the world will be easy. Because they won’t understand that kind of love.
And they will ask why.
And then we can share all that He is with them.
So that they, too, can love Him.
Love others.
And go tell the world.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13 (NLT)
Eternal things:
God.
His Word.
And the souls of people.
Everything else is ashes and dust.

Will you love God?
Will you love the people He has created?
Love them until they ask you why?
The greatest of these is love.

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