(Luke 14:1-6 NIV)
“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" And they had nothing to say”
It is rumored that John McNaughton, a Canadian Investment Banker, said this: “Maturity always begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.” We can see this idea lived out when Jesus chooses to go to eat at the house of a Pharisee.
Jesus knew the trap that was set for him at this Pharisee’s house, but his concern for the suffering man there outweighed his concern for himself. Sabbath law restricted Jesus from doing any work. The Pharisees had fallen in love with the Sabbath but had forgotten the spirit of the Sabbath. That made them forget that there is no law or practice that outweighs what God wants from us: We cannot ever be in the presence of human need, have what it takes to help, and not intervene.
Jesus perceives this plot and lays a trap of his own. He replied to their question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” with his own question, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” Jesus makes it clear that if there is a provision for an animal on the Sabbath, how much more should we help a fellow human being?
This question was a trap, because if the Pharisees answered “Yes,” then their argument would fail because it would be lawful to heal on the Sabbath. If they answer “No,” then they must admit that they grossly misinterpreted God’s character. So, they decide to remain silent, showing their true motives.
Their silence, by consequence, brought a man before Jesus who may not have otherwise met him. In that silence, Jesus healed him and sent him on his way.
This text reveals that the Lord’s work in and through you must be inspired by a spiritual and healthy opinion of the person that you are ministering to. This is clear because Jesus did not believe this man deserved to have his disease. To Jesus, he was simply a man who needed help.
When you have faith in Christ, you can’t help but be concerned with what happens to other people. You learn to empathize and sympathize with those around you. This is because faith connects you to people on a higher level. It goes beyond physical appearance and makes you care about them in every way.
We ought to minister to everyone like Jesus ministered to this man: regardless of this man’s choices in life, Jesus viewed him as a candidate to be saved.
1 Corinthian 13:6-8, NIV
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
What if God told you that you couldn’t leave the place He’s put you in? How would that change your mindset?
If God wouldn’t let you leave a place, a job, or a relationship, what would you do?
Would you endure the trial because He’s asked you to endure this season, or would you walk away from Him?
That’s a tough question, but it’s an important question. It’s a question that God asks His people at some point in their lives.
What would you do if you couldn’t walk away?
You do have a choice in the matter. That’s a gift from God. He gives you a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) and freewill to make your own choices (Romans 10:9-10).
So, would you endure or get bitter? Those are your only real options as a child of God.
God wants you to choose “endure.”
Why? It’s because “you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NIV).
How do you make the choice to endure when things are hard and when relationships are hard?
Paul says, “It requires a love that endures all things.”
Here are five practical tips on how to love with endurance:
- Recognize that God is allowing this for your good. Sometimes it feels like we’ve got too much on our shoulders. The burdens are too big. The relationships are too hard. But could you be right where you are for “such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Just like Esther, you don’t know what your risk to stand by and “endure” could mean for someone else’s future in God’s Kingdom.
- You have a helper in the Holy Spirit. When you don’t feel like loving someone, your first instinct may be to leave, to not call, or to avoid them completely. However, God calls us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to find comfort in His strength and love our neighbors even when they are unlovable. That’s why He gave us His helper in the Holy Spirit – to strengthen us and push us forward.
- Take courage. Your mindset is a powerful weapon when times and people are hard. When you choose to grab courage by the throat and declare you are staying where God put you, He will bless you with the spiritual endurance to love even when you are under siege. The Spirit will give you the courage you lack.
- Recognize that God believes in you. One of the greatest gifts we can share with someone else is our faith. We can believe that they are precious to God. We can see past what we see now. Did you know God believes that of you? Think about how much He trusts you with His prickly people.
- Make hard choices. Pray when you want to fight. Stay put when you want to quit. Trust when you want to doubt. Stand when you want to run. Forgive when you want to fight back.
If God has ordained certain difficult and imperfect relationships in this season, accept that fleeing is not an option. Stop imagining life without it. Declare before the Lord that fleeing is not an option, but loving is. And remember if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
I Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul is trying to iron out some common conflicts between the saints at Corinth. The major conflict is status. The saints are bickering over who has greater spiritual gifts, a greater leader, and a greater church.
The truth is that spiritual gifts are no better or worse in each saint’s life. Yet, the people have gotten caught up in the temptation to put themselves before others. It’s caused splinters and factions in the church and strained relationships.
Isn’t that so similar to how we live life today? We put ideas and conflicts above loving other people.
The first lesson is that we are all unique, handcrafted by God. No one is better than another, but God has purposed each of us to fulfill a different role in the body of Christ
The second lesson is the message Paul is focusing on in today’s verse, “Love is there because God is there.” Paul is trying to tell them [and us] that the love of God that gives them passion and desire to see God’s best for them also makes them look for the best in each other.
And if you know the context of the letters Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he’s very upset with them, like a father with a child. He loves them, but they have walked so far away from what he’s taught them that it’s hard for him to be around them.
Do you have anyone like that in your life? It’s hard to be around the prickly people. It’s hard to love them, yet Christ calls us to do just that.
And that’s what Paul is teaching here. You have to look for the good in people because God is there within them.
Another truth to know about Paul—even though he is hurting over the saints, he is supremely confident in the future.
He anchors his hope in the reality that a yielded life surrendered to God will (even in difficult, conflict-ridden relationships) “always” love and look for the love of God that exists within others.
Here are some practical ways to “always” look for the God (and good) in others:
- Keep your hope present. Are you living a Scripture-filled, prayer-intense, worship-passionate life? If not, start here. You will have strength to look past doubt and negativity when focusing on reading your Bible, praying intentionally, and worshiping passionately. God’s Word does not return void.
- Love anyway. The prickly people are usually covered in layers and layers of pain. If you establish your confidence that God is STILL in there somewhere, you can endure and love them where they are.
- Go the distance. Loving people intentionally is the way to bring the “God in them” out. It may take time. Be prepared for conflict. Love them through it. Pray for them. Let them know you are there.
- Remember that God made everything good. He did. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NIV). If God created everything good, there’s good in everyone. If good gets buried under layers, God’s best is still in them.
- Rely on the Spirit for help. If we have the gift of the Spirit, we can love people “always” and help them to find the good that’s always been there.
1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
To feel envy is human, but to enjoy other people’s misfortune is downright diabolical. As Paul continues to describe the characteristics of God’s kind of love, he suggests that it is worse than weak to partake in this kind of rejoicing. In fact, he says it’s wicked to enjoy this.
This immoral approach to love is happening in the city of Corinth. The saints are taking pleasure in other people’s misfortunes. Paul feels conflicted; he feels that love doesn’t rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Love doesn’t gloat when bad things happen to other people. Love doesn’t secretly rub its hands together in enjoyment. Love doesn’t enjoy misfortunes even in those who have done wrong. Love does not find satisfaction in the wrongdoings of enemies.
You should love your neighbor even when they fall.
However, pain always wants compensation. The wrong done to you forces you to shut down the hope in the one who has done you wrong. But the presence of the Spirit in your life ought to be stronger than these wicked feelings. The Holy Spirit should give you the strength not to take pleasure in others’ failures. When the Holy Spirit dominates your soul, you should have no desire to rub your hands together in happiness when one of your enemies falls.
Imagine driving down the road, and a car cuts in front of you, then drives past and gives you a rude gesture through the window. A couple blocks later, you see a cop has pulled them over. Maybe you hope they forgot their license that day or they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. At the very least, maybe they’ll spill coffee on their clothes or get an agitated cop who gives them a ticket. But Paul says your love shouldn’t gloat over the misfortune of those who’ve done you wrong. Even when it comes to an ex friend or significant other—and considering all the pain and hardship they’ve put you through—Paul still stresses that love doesn’t revel in the pain of others.
Don’t search for contentment in your life through the misfortunes of those who have wronged you. God’s love in you can and should provide all the contentment you need. When you understand the magnitude of the love of God that is in you and begin to truly value that love, nothing else will matter. You don’t have to feel more impressed with yourself, or superior, or inferior based upon another person’s behavior. You should simply be grateful God brought you this far.
As much as you’ve been hurt, He makes you stronger through every hurt you have experienced. Maybe some events in your past should have prevented you from smiling again or having new aspirations or finding joy, but God brought you through. When you think about how He’s brought you back from the edge—how He didn’t let you fall when you were barely hanging on—how can you be anything but content? He sorts, heals, sanctifies, and makes the crooked places straight.
Find joy and contentment in God every day, not just seasons where you are winning and your enemies are losing. Wrap your future in the strength of His presence. Rejoice not in the misfortune of others, but in the love He puts on your life. God is enough!
1 Corinthian 13:1-3 (AMP)
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
In these times of political turmoil, our culture is turning to incivility. We see someone on the street and instead of talking to them, giving a polite smile, wave, or “Good Afternoon!”, we look the other way. We wait for them to say something. And I must admit, I am guilty of this myself. We become tired of the incivility in others, so we give up too. We look the other way, we ignore others, and the cycle of incivility continues. It’s in the church, it’s in our culture—it’s everywhere.
Last week we talked about incivility on a cultural level, but this week I want to discuss this at an individual level. Paul is lecturing to the people of Corinth that without love, our spiritual gifts are fruitless. Our words become hollow. If we can’t relate to others and come together in God, our acts of good amount to nothing. He asks, “What is the root of God’s work in you?” The answer should be love. Our spiritual endowments are given to us so we can help one another in the body of Christ.
Don’t let others make you sacrifice your civility or act like you don’t believe in God or the principles outlined in the Bible. You are not saved because you say you are, but because of the grace and mercy that God has extended to you. Don’t go around saying you’re anointed but treat others who don’t agree with you with disrespect. Don’t lose your hope. Stay encouraged when faced with threats every day. Maintain your grace not just when money’s in the bank and food is on the table, but when your back is against the wall and others aren’t treating you well.
You may have acted with disrespect before you were saved, but when God extended the gift of salvation to you, it made you different. God does not judge you based on who you were before you were saved—He cares about your behavior now. He cares that no matter how the culture is behaving around you, you don’t have to become corrupt just to fit in. He cares that you love even when people hate and that you put your weapons on the shelf and use your spiritual gifts instead. Your relationship with Jesus should make you believe that there is always life after tough seasons.
Maybe you were a naturally distrustful person because of your background. But when you gave your life to Christ, that all goes away. He transformed your life and spiritually empowered you. That means you don’t have to succumb to incivility. The Holy Spirit transformed you to help you live and love for the kingdom and make others want to know the Christ who set you free. Being a Christian doesn’t give you a pass.
What made us lose confidence in love? When did we stop trusting its substance or sustainability? Too often we judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions. What would happen if we reversed that?
Don’t let the infection that is setting in this culture make you forget you’ve been inoculated from its ingestion by the Holy Spirit. We can’t know the joy of God without others. Always remember that the love of Christ never fails and is a gift that should be shared with anyone that crosses your path!