Dear Friends in Christ,
This week we are holding our annual Vacation Bible School ministry at Beverly Heights and, as usual, it is a great experience. Lisa Tyger and her assistant, Lisa Wahl, have done a wonderfully thorough job of preparing for this signature outreach to children and it shows! The organization is exemplary, the execution is precise, the kids are having a great time and the story of God’s love for us under the theme “Standing on the Promises” is being told with clarity, passion and an eye toward children and adults hearing of God’s love for them. It’s been a terrific week!
I’ve been writing about God’s love in the church these past couple of weeks because our congregation is undergoing some significant staff transitions which potentially provide opportunity for differences of opinion, disagreements and fractures in the church. The Apostle Paul dealt with these phenomena in the church at Corinth in response to which he wrote that love for one another is the only way to keep a congregation whole, healthy, unified and effective in the context of many individuals, opinions, preferences, personalities, desires and expectations.
In I Corinthians 13. 4-7 Paul characterizes godly love with the power to hold a congregation together in the midst of change. Along with the other attributes of such love (on which I’ve written in the past month) he says Love does not insist on its own way (v. 5). That’s a verse we like to pull out of our shoulder bag, load into our slingshot and hurl at people with whom we disagree, all the while charging them with being bullheaded, inflexible, uncooperative and uncompromising. Insisting on one’s own way suggests references to argumentation, disagreement and negotiation with winners prevailing and losers going down in defeat and, often, taking a walk!
Though such an understanding of the verse is not precluded by proper interpretation I don’t think it is primary. The text literally says that love “does not seek the things of itself.” Hence, love is not self-seeking.
One of the principles of good biblical interpretation is allowing scripture to interpret scripture; it asks the question What other passages of scripture might help me understand the text I am presently considering? In the text before us I think we gain valuable insights from what Paul was addressing in I Corinthians 10. 23-31, a passage in which he was dealing with disagreement in the church over the question of whether it was proper or not to eat meat that had previously been offered to idols.
The sense of things from the passage is that there were arguments resulting in alienation, division and disunity in the church with church members digging in their heels in unloving intransigence. People were self-seeking; they were insisting on their own way (opinion, desires, and expectations) with the result that the church was factious, choosing up sides and setting themselves up for some to be winners and some to be losers.
Such congregational actions do not accord with love and do not promote unity in the church. Love is a shift of focus from one’s self to that of another in order that the object of one’s love will thrive. This is how God demonstrates His love for us in Jesus Christ. His focus was on us and His desire that we have the fullness of life. As followers of Jesus Christ we must love others as He has loved us.
Knowing when to yield to another and when to stick to one’s guns is a judgement call that each one of us must make. Like all things it must be done in faith without which no one can please God. As I consider I Corinthians 10, a good devotional exercise for all, a number of questions suggest themselves when considering a position, an action or a decision that will impact the congregation of believers with which one worships and serves:
- Is my thinking, speaking, acting glorifying to God? (10.31),
- Will others be built up as a result of my actions? (10.23),
- Will my speaking/acting offend my brothers and sisters in Christ? (10.32),
- Will my speaking/acting offend unbelievers? (10.31),
- Am I seeking the good of my neighbor or my own good? (10.23),
- Do I have the salvation of unbelievers a primary concern of mine? (10.23).
How one answers these questions will aid in determining whether or not one is acting in love that does not insist on its own way. Saying No to ourselves is difficult to do – sacrifice for the sake of others does not come naturally for the sinner whose primary characteristic is self-reference. But love does not insist on its own way.
A NOT-SO-TANGENTIAL THOUGHT: One of the contexts in which believers increasingly demonstrate a self-sacrificing love or a self-centered insisting on one’s own way is social media. When, on Facebook, for instance, one identifies as a follower of Jesus Christ the number of people to whom one will give testimony, both good and destructive, increases exponentially.
With the power to influence the thinking of individuals so greatly magnified in social media there comes a corresponding and ever-increasing responsibility to represent the Lord Jesus Christ with truth and love. Are your posts glorifying to God? Are they edifying to others? Are they offensive to brothers and sisters in Christ? Do they seek the good of others? Do they accurately represent the congregation of which you are a part as imperfect yet forgiven? By what you say will others desire to become a follower of Jesus Christ and a part of His church?
Post with love…and love does not insist on its own way!
Faithfully in Christ,
Posted on Fri, June 29, 2018
by Bethany Thomson filed under