Let us pray: Dear Savior, You tell us that without love, Your love for us, everything in our lives is empty and meaningless. Today, carve that truth into our hearts! Cause us to live it, feel it, and speak it today instead of merely mouthing or living it as a cliché. For only then will we be given genuine sight into Your reality. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF GENUINE LOVE
TEXT: I Cor. 12:27—13:13
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What motivates people? What motivates you? If you’re honest, you have to say: “Many different things depending on the circumstances.” A soldier in battle is motivated by a mix of fear, hatred for his enemy, a deep sense of caring for his mates, simple survival, and also patriotism. Disputing legal parties can be motivated by revenge, dislike, pride over trying to save face, greed, envy, or even righteous indignation. Voters in an election are motivated by a sense of duty, disgust over a candidate, or hope for something better. Mothers and fathers are motivated by a sense of duty, caring, responsibility, and most of all love. Motivations change depending on the: who, what, when, where, and how of life.
As we walk through the daily tasks of life, we often have to make split second decisions about people. Often our motivation behind them is muddled and hard to define. If we get it right, our conscience is at peace. If we get it wrong, we live with regrets. And those regrets come with second guessing ourselves.—If I had only known this, or if I had said that instead…..
St. Paul touches on our inability to really “see” people and events as they really are. “For we know in part and we prophesy (speak and apply God’s truth) in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…. Now 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.”
All this begs the question about “second sight.” It reveals our deep longing to see the issues of life clearly and always handle them in exactly the right way. The frustrating thing about being a human is that such second sight seems totally unobtainable. Well, it would be and is—except in Christ Who sees all! And wonders of wonders, He provides us with a blueprint for obtaining such second sight. So, let’s examine our lesson by zeroing in on this truth:
TRUE LOVE NEVER LOSES THE GIFT OF SECOND SIGHT
I Corinthians 13 is known as “the love chapter.” Nine different times the word “love” is used and also amply defined. And in every case, the love spoken of goes back to and comes from the unconditional love God has for us in Jesus Christ. It finds definition in His selfless sacrifice on the cross completely covering over our sins and failures to “get it right.” The application and motivation of such love also provides believers with the gift of second sight so that we truly can “get it right” when it comes to our interaction with each other.
Our lesson begins with St. Paul enumerating specific spiritual gifts bestowed by God upon people within the Corinthians congregation and literally every Christian congregation. To those who let envy or dissatisfaction motivate them in how they regarded or treated their fellow believers, he concludes his remarks by asking: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?” Obviously the answer is: No. So, why either expect them to, or be envious of them? Accept them for who and what they are and glory in their uniqueness! And then he goes on to talk about the gift of Godly love which can provide every believer with “second sight.”
Imagine meeting someone who could speak every foreign language known to man and even converse in angelic language? You’d be in awe. And if such a gift were given to you, you’d probably feel quite superior. But Paul says that without God’s love for you in Christ filling your soul, you’d actually be awesomely discordant. Or, imagine if you knew every truth of God’s Word backwards and forwards and you could dazzle everyone with your knowledge? Without humble love, the humble love of Christ’s cross motivating your every moment, you’d amount to nothing in His sight. Well, you get the picture.
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but God examines the heart.” That’s what the Bible says. And the one and only thing God looks for in your heart is pure and perfect love. He defines that kind of love this way: “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. Love never fails.”
Those words are a snapshot of how God views you in Christ alone. Our Savior was all those things. That’s why we can call Him our “Loving Savior.” His love was and is perfect when it comes to us. Love defines Who He is. Love defines every aspect of His relationship with us. Faith doesn’t totally define Him, for when it comes to faith we’re part of the equation. Hope doesn’t totally define Him, because hope is a human emotion about the unseen and unknown, whereas God sees and knows everything in advance. No, love defines Him because love is a pure gift totally outside human beings and which is poured into human beings wiping away our sins.
So, it is only love, the perfect, forgiving, patient, and kind love that God has showered upon us that will endure the test of time. It is this true love that helps provide us with insight into handling situations and people. It is this true love that enables us to look past our jumbled emotions and truly value and appreciate our fellow believers and the gifts they bring to the table.
For over 25 years I’ve attended our synodical conventions in Minnesota. Each year long-time delegates attend. Each year some “newbie” delegates come on board along with “newbie” pastors. And almost every year those newbies are treated to a forceful demonstration of such timeless love in action. Issues have arisen over the years during which pastors and laymen really go at it from opposites sides. Sometimes voices get a bit loud. But then, when it all concludes, you often see those same people joking together and walking off to break bread together. Some might think this kind of comradarie is a façade. But, it’s not. It’s simply genuine love in action. For true love never loses the gift of second sight. And that second sight, the overarching truth behind our lives is that fellow believers are eternally linked together by the love of Christ for them! If you remember that fact and don’t lose sight of it, second sight will be and remain your window into the glories of heaven itself! Amen