Friday, 29 January 2010

The first on the list of the concerns of the saint

 Love One Another

This should, of course, be first on the list of the concerns of the saint. And most of what has been said to this point is obviously related to love. But, as we near the conclusion of these matters, we must make a special effort to consider love once again.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

God is a jealous God. He demands all our love and attention. But because we love God the more, do we love our brethren less? Our love for God is different from our love for another person. If we truly love God, we will show our love for Him in practical expressions of love for others. True divine love does not exclude human love; rather, it enhances it.

Verses 4-7 above contain a dozen or so characteristics of Scriptural “love”. We shall consider each one in turn:

“Love is Patient”

We have the example of Christ, who patiently taught his disciples and time after time helped them when they stumbled and lacked faith. Undoubtedly there were times when he wanted to throw up his hands and abandon the effort altogether, for they were so slow to learn and so bent on maintaining their own natural affections. But he loved them dearly; he loved them despite their inadequacies; he prayed for them; and he persisted until his efforts began to bear fruit. Can we do any less for our brethren?

“Love is Kind”

This English word “kind” is one of those pale, sentimental words that just does no justice to the original. We should say, instead, that love is considerate ­ showing an active, involved concern for the needs of others, even to the detriment of one’s own comfort. We probably all think of ourselves as being “kind”, for we certainly are never “unkind”! Are we?

“If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15,16).

There are times when a “kind word” is no more than hypocrisy, because it masks a failure to help in any practical way. Have we ever been guilty of such an act, in a benign, “friendly” indifference to the circumstances of others? Then we may have been courteous and civil and pleasant, but we have not been “kind” in the Scriptural sense, and we have not been loving.

“Love Does Not Envy”

The divergence of gifts among the Corinthians was a cause of envy. Likewise, envy can result today from comparisons between brethren: “Who is the better speaker?” “Why was he elected Arranging Brother?” “So-and-so wants to run everything. Who put him (or her) in charge?” The person who can ask such questions does not have at heart the best interests of the whole body.

Jealousy, or envy, is a terrible disease, and often fatal in the spiritual sense. It destroys its originator much more quickly than the one at whom it is directed.

“Love Does Not Boast ... is Not Proud”

Envy and boasting are quite closely related. They both stem from the same basic problem: love of self rather than love of others. True love does not have to be pushy. It does not need attention. It can afford to wait. Remember what Jesus said of the arrogant Pharisees ­ who did their works to be seen of men: “They already have their reward.” Let this not be said of us.

“Love is Not Rude”

Sometimes a gentle admonition or even a stern rebuke needs to be administered. It is possible to be in the right ­ even to say the right thing ­ but to say it in absolutely the wrong way. A criticism may be correct in every particular, but if it is delivered with a superior or proud or overbearing manner it will not achieve a good result. As always, the principle is consideration for others: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In short ... love.

“Love is Not Self-Seeking”

Have you ever participated in a three-legged race? You may be the fastest runner at the picnic, but you'll wind up sprawled on the grass unless you can adapt yourself to the style of your partner. This principle also holds true in the ecclesia. We are all members of the one body, and we must learn to function as a unit. We are “yoked together” with our brethren in many endeavors; we cannot always choose the way that pleases us most.

Your way of doing things may always be the best, but it won't always be the one chosen by the majority. Then what do you do? Go along or “drop out”? There have been cases of members leaving meetings because of absolutely trivial disagreements, in which they failed to get their own way and just could not bend enough to go along with others. And they, and sometimes their families, have paid for that stubbornness with twenty or thirty years of self-imposed isolation.

There is an extremely illuminating passage in this connection:

“For even Christ pleased not himself” (Rom. 15:3).

Just six little words, but a world of exhortation and self-examination. If even Christ did not please himself, who are we to think that things should always go our way? Who are we to please ourselves in everything?

“Love is Not Easily Angered”

A person possessing the true love of God has a peace of mind that no other has. In the midst of strife and controversy, he maintains a calm and reasoning mind, and a disposition to peacemaking. He has that same inner serenity that sustained Christ through his great trials.

A person in such a frame of mind cannot be offended by others. He is not provoked to backbiting or vengeance. He relies upon the grace of God, he knows that there is a final judgment that will right all wrongs, and he is not concerned about what man may do to him in the meanwhile. If God is for him, who can be against him?

“Love Delights Not in Evil, But in Truth”

If ever a thought might be coupled with “Let a man examine himself”, surely this is it! Don't we all do this? Don't we all listen to gossip and rumors and evil insinuations? Don't we all ­ sometimes ­ derive pleasure from the shortcomings of others, especially those who have previously appeared to be models of uprightness?

We judge ourselves by the standards of others, and when we do this we are glad to see them fall. We tend to think we are lifted up in proportion as our brother is cast down. But when we live by this standard we are completely corrupting Paul’s teachings of the unity of Christ’s body and the dependence of one member upon another. These lofty ideas lose their meaning when cooperation is replaced by competition.

“Love Always Protects”

We need go no further than Christ’s example. Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, and more than that he bore our sorrows that he might be a perfect mediator.

The mind lingers on a picture, perhaps well-known to many. One boy with a younger one on his back. “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother!” Strain is obviously there, but he bears his burden gladly. All things are relative, aren’t they? Yes, in more ways than one! We are willing to do for our families what seems intolerable if done for others.

Do we sit in the meeting on Sunday morning, and feel that those with whom we break bread are really our family? Or are our expressions of “Brother Smith” and “Sister Jones” merely a formal, stylized address? Let us live that family relationship of which the Bible speaks so often; let us rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Let us “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

“Love Always Hopes ... Always Perseveres”

The Christian’s life of love is a joyful existence. In the midst of sorrows and pains, he rejoices in the great gifts of the Creator.

His eye is firmly set upon the hope that rises as a mountain before him. There may be a valley to traverse before he reaches that distant peak. But he never takes his eye off that glorious future; and all life’s little annoyances and inconveniences are seen for what they are ­ stepping stones en route to the Kingdom. Paul says in another place:

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12,13).

All that God has given us ­ riches, talents, intelligence, health ­ diminishes with the passing of time. Man grows old and dies. Only love remains, as a bridge between this life and the life to come, a bridge over the chasm of eternal nothingness. Every other gift or talent will fail, just as the Holy Spirit gifts finally ceased. The only thing that endures is the character of man, engraven in the infinite mind of God.

- Brother George Booker
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A New Creation
A Manual for New Christadelphians, Young Christadelphians, and Prospective Christadelphians Chapter 46


Dutch translation / Nederlandse vertaling > Het eerste op de lijst van de zorgen van de heilige