NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”. A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life. As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind. As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about. I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples. This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.
It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is. It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses. So here it is:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”
I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love. So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.
- Love is a verb not a noun – This passage is all about the actions that we take not thoughts that we have. It deals with what kinds of emotions direct our lives and what kind of behaviors come out of us. Love is all about doing and showing the people around us that we love them. To be patient, kind and trusting takes actions that show those traits.
- Love is others focused – When it comes to understanding love it’s all about being focused on the people around us and not on ourselves. It’s paying attention to the people in our lives and taking the time and energy to love them and serve them.
- Love is powerful – If love is your base, it can overpower all the negative emotions we struggle with. Love brings us back to the way God designed us. It fights against the resistance that pushes us to be selfish, self-centered and negative. Everyone wants to experience love whether they admit it or not. When we love it shows strength and character.
- Love is long-term – When we love the way this Scripture says to love it keeps us focused on the big picture and the long-term health of all our relationships. It looks beyond the current situation or pain and sees how things could and should be. It allows us to be patient and to trust when the situation doesn’t feel like we should. Love is what gets us through the dark times in our lives. Love is what picks us up and gets us through.
- Love Works – We all want to be around people that love well. We are drawn to people that live out these actions. Jesus was the perfect example of love. When we put his name in place of love we can say yes that’s Jesus. I think that is why people were so drawn to him and why so many people are still following him today. Love really does work, love gets results and changes lives.
So here is the challenge. We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains. Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives. When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.
If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart. If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.
Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.” God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us. Love Well!
One of the most powerful and helpful things we can do to be healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, is to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness enables a person to release buried anger, resentment, bitterness, shame, grief, regret, hate and other damaging emotions that live inside of us. Forgiveness releases layers and years of hurt and begins the healing process. Forgiveness leads to an ability to love well.
It is important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting – Forgetting is a long-term by-product of forgiveness. Once you choose to forgive someone, then healing and forgetting the hurt can start to happen.
- Forgiveness is a choice – Everyone can choose to forgive, but typically we don’t feel like forgiving, because we like to hold onto our anger or resentment in order to protect ourselves. When we don’t forgive we stay chained to our past. Nobody can fix your past, but you can be free from it, it is your choice.
- Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin – We all have had someone hurt us and we can either live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. No one gets off God’s hook, we all have to give an account for our actions and there are always consequences for our actions.
- Forgive from the heart – Just saying the words I forgive you is not enough. It’s important to bring back up the painful emotions and memories of the person that hurt you so that those emotions can be healed and not buried.
- Forgiveness is choosing not to hold someone’s sin against him or her anymore – This does not mean that you put up with abuse, we all need healthy boundaries and there are consequences for sin. This means that we won’t bring up old offenses after forgiving someone. Remember that God freely forgives us and does not hold our sins against us.
- Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving – Most people will never get there. Make the hard choice to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it. Once you choose to forgive, the hold on you is broken and God can start healing your damaged emotions.
We should never base our decision to forgive on a person’s good behavior compensating for previous hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is something that happens inside of you, it comes from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving. Waiting until a person is worthy of forgiveness will feed your damaged emotions and cause further hurt.
Always remember that it takes only one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile. You can forgive a person even if they don’t forgive you, but reconciliation always requires the wills of both parties involved.
There is so much more to forgiveness than what is covered here. Some of the principles I covered come from Neil Anderson and his booklet called Steps to Freedom in Christ. If your having a hard time making the choice to forgive, ask God to help you. He can give you the strength to do it.
Being positive and encouraging people is more important than you might think. If you want to turn around your workplace, your company, your marriage or your relationship with your children this is the way to do it. Here are some interesting quotes from a great book called How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath:
- The number #1 reason people leave their jobs (relationships) is they don’t feel appreciated
- Bad bosses (spouses) could increase the risk of stroke by 33%
- A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with-for good
- 65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace (home) last year
- 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people
- The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction
- Extending longevity: Increasing positive emotions could lengthen life span by 10 years
So it’s clear that the majority of people don’t get the positive reinforcement they need. I believe this is true at work and at home. Some people are just naturally more positive than negative, but all of us can get better at this. Here are a few simple things you can do this week to be more positive or encouraging:
- Say Thank-you – this simple gesture goes a long way. Be sincere and specific.
- Write a note – hand-written notes take time and are more meaningful than emails or texts
- Smile – your face matters
- Listen – when you actively listen people feel valued
- Slow down – Take some time to actually get to know someone or have a meaningful conversation
- Touch – a high-five, knuckle-bump, touch on a shoulder etc sends positive signals. With your spouse this could be a hug, kiss, holding hands etc.
One thing to be aware of as you work on being positive is to be careful what you are taking in. What you watch on TV, what you read, what you listen to, all affect how positive or negative you are. Feed your mind positive good things and you tend to be more positive to other people.
I’ve been thinking and studying this idea of love. I have to say that I need to work on this area of my life. I think most people would say they can do a better job of loving others. But for most of us we don’t know what that looks like. I work at a church so what I look to in order to learn and grow is God’s Word. I was reading this today and it really struck me and challenged me. I hope it does the same for you. This is found in Romans 12:9-21 in the New Century Version of the Bible:
9 Your love must be real. Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. 11 Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart. 12 Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. 13 Share with God’s people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes.
14 Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad. 16 Live in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.
17 If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. 18 Do your best to live in peace with everyone. 19 My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: “I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,”[a] says the Lord. 20 But you should do this:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink.
Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head.” Proverbs 25:21–22
21 Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.
Just that first sentence, your love must be real is enough for me today. You can’t fake love.
Love is all about doing and taking action. It’s about how we think about ourselves, others and God. The best way we can worship God is by loving others well.
I’ve been thinking about grace lately. What does it mean to give someone grace? If your a follower of Christ, you’ve heard of God’s grace. Grace is giving someone something that they don’t deserve.
When the grace of God shapes our relationships, we respond to the sin and weakness of others with grace. So here are some questions to consider:
- Do you hold people to a higher standard than you hold yourself?
- Do you fail to overlook minor offenses?
- Do you spend more time catching people doing wrong than doing right?
- Are you better at criticizing than encouraging?
- Do people feel accepted and loved by you or criticized and judged?
- How do you tend to respond to the weaknesses, sins, and failures of those around you?
A grace mindset enables us to serve others out of a heart of compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and love. The closer we get to people the more these attitudes are needed because the closer we get the more we experience their weaknesses and sins.
When grace is shaping our relationships it means we are ready, willing and able to forgive. Forgiveness starts with a transaction between God and us. It’s talking to him about the offense and entrusting that person and the offense to God. That prepares us for the interaction with the person that hurt us. On our own it is very difficult to truly forgive and let go of the hurt.
Grace also enables us to humbly ask for forgiveness as well. The truth is that we all hurt others from time to time and need to take responsibility for those actions or words. When we ask for forgiveness, we are admitting our responsibility for sin against others, without justification, excuse or blame. Being able to say something like this brings great healing: “I was wrong for saying __________. Please forgive me. I am sorry for the pain I caused you.”
- Grace enables us to make peace
- Grace enables us to speak the truth
- Grace enables us to serve others
- Grace enables us to grant forgiveness
- Grace enables us to learn to say no
- Grace enables us to recognize, develop and use the gifts and abilities God gave us.
Ask God to help you have more grace in your life, it can transform all your relationships and change your circumstances.