I Corinthians 13:1-13
Taking on or endorsing Christian values, rooted in moral and ethical integrity, is what we do when we take our Christianity seriously. Walking it out however, consistently practicing these values without a lot of hesitation, wavering, and pause; takes a lot more effort than simple consent and endorsement. Incremental change and adjustment. Unfortunately along the way, our faith and hope can be weak and anemic. But the good news is, as true-blue Christians we never stop loving God. It is this constant and abiding love that keeps us going when faith and hope is less than it should be; and our love for God is also the inherent reason we want to please Him.
Paul wrote and now abides faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity. In this verse charity means the love of God; and more specifically in this text; our love for God. A few years ago, when serving local churches full-time, I frequently counseled sincere parishioners who struggled with doubt and deep discouragement. At the close of the counseling session I frequently asked: I know you feel you have little hope, and your faith is very low; but I must ask, can you absolutely say that you love God? Without fail, the answer was always a yes. This question was asked because I wanted those who were going through difficult times to be assured that there relationship with God was still in tact; and they were not forsaken. Our faith and hope can fail us but as Paul wrote our love for God never fails!
Life is complicated and sometimes confusing: not feeling so great about the way people are responding to us, the challenging circumstances in front of us, or the sufferings we are experiencing. We are searching for answers, strength and comfort. It doesn’t look hopeful. And we don’t seem to have much faith. Yet we know that we love God; in the end we will be given comfort, strength and guidance. And as a result of our loving relationship with God we will find new pathways to hope and faith.
We have not always pleased God, but we know we love God. The Scripture sums up this contradiction between pleasing God and loving God: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. This is one of the disappointing realities of being human and normal. We fail more than we should, too inconsistent. Yet once again the good news is our love for God is consistent and always the same. Simply put, loving God never fails even though we fail.
Jesus let’s us know: the greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all of your heart, mind and strength. It’s not loving God with our hearts and minds that is so challenging for us, our heart and mind loves easily, it is loving God with our strength. Loving God is what we have been doing from the moment we became serious Christians; when God revealed his love to us through grace and faith. Pleasing God is much different, prompting all kinds of adjustments; mainly lifestyle changes and the way we treat others; much courage and strength is needed.
I have been working at being a Christian for several decades: there has been some red-letter successes and equally disturbing failures for me. Most of my progress has been incremental, surprisingly slower than I have wanted and expected. I am fairly certain that many Christians have followed a straighter path than me. But I am happy with how far I have come: but I also have along way to go to be as pleasing to God as I want to be. These days I often pray, God I know I love You, give me the the strength I need to please You!
Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills, Michigan, March 2019
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