“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Cor 13 MSG)
I was watching Francis Chan this week (a sermon, not a karate movie) when he used the memorable line, “God measures our lives by how we love…”
And just now, Bible Gateway has given me the above thought for the day . Nothing I can say or do or even believe will measure up to anything much at all, without love.
The word is “bankrupt.”
How does that make you feel?
For myself, I have to confess to being worried. You see, I really understand that line by Elie Wiesel, that “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. ” There are so many situations where I feel indifferent, such as conversations about politics, music, food, flower arrangements, clothes…. I find myself nodding politely, with a kind of metaphorical “Gone fishing” sign draped over my face.
And situations with people too. My wife seems to live life on high alert, watching and responding to the worried wrinkles on people’s faces. Stopping to talk to Big Issue sellers, praying with shop assistants, soothing the fears of anxious dogs outside shops.
I notice nothing.
And when I finally trip over a homeless man, say, the biggest emotions that surge across my pysche are fear that I might be mugged or embarrassment that I might have to Do Something overtly practical.
In the old “Good Samaritan” scenario, I’d like to suggest those two emotions as alternative reasons for “crossing over to the other side” and not offering assistance.
So the word “bankrupt” comes to me with rather an unpleasant jolt of self-awareness. “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do,” God measures me by how I love.
Here’s how the paraphrase goes on: “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.”
To be honest, I feel very small reading this. But God doesn’t want me to feel condemned so much as truthful and realistic about my many failures. And he doesn’t want me to Just Try Harder (though it wouldn’t hurt, would it?) so much as recognize that ultimately there is only one who has ever lived out that Love-life to the full, and his name is Jesus.
And I am truly loved. That’s what grace means. But I am glad indeed to sing this song:
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
And Lord, help me to be more loving today, too.