The Impossible Love List

The Impossible Love List – Love Never Ends

Eternal1

If you’ve taken this journey with me, you might be surprised to know it has lasted 3 days shy of 5 months. That’s a long time to sift through 55 words, (ESV trans.). This short passage, which for me is the explanation of what God means when He tells me to love my neighbor as myself, will never again be relegated to “those verses they read at weddings.” It has become a template for selflessness and perhaps the most potent, condensed description of how God has always loved flawed, egocentric humans.

It’s also worth noting, there is a very real sensation that while much has been gleaned, I have only skimmed the surface. That’s the nature of exploring eternal truths. There is no end, no bottom to the well, no arriving at the whole of it. But that is also the thrill of the pursuit. God reveals what He means to reveal. It always hits the mark. It’s always relevant. It always addresses the most pertinent point of need. That’s God’s way. As I find myself in this passage in the future, new things will surface and God will once again peel back the veil to expose the beauty of Himself and His love.

The bullets for me are these:

  • God loves, and has always loved in the face of anti-love.
  • There is nothing remarkable about loving unless it’s offered in the face of anti-love.
  • Love is a 100% self-LESS enterprise.
  • God’s says more about what love is not than He does about what it is.
  • The things that describe what love is not, are all very intuitive in my flesh.
  • The things that describe what love is, are utterly foreign to my fleshly nature.
  • If I move to love in my flesh, I will fail, thus the title of this collection of writings.
  • If I  stay very near God, open to His influence in and through me, these traits WILL manifest and God will love people through me.
  • Offering love to people is a command, part ‘b’ of the greatest commandment upon which EVERYTHING else hinges.
  • If I don’t fulfill this command I do not know God, because God is love.
  • Loving people in the way God describes, will run so counter-intuitive to culture, it will likely, as it has in times past, start a revolution.

As you read this list one more time, I hope you will linger a bit and let some of what God has spoken come to the fore of your mind again. With knowledge comes responsibility (that line’s for me). Until truth finds its way into action, I do not yet believe it. May God transform all of us to become the loving people He calls us to be, for the sake of His great name, for the sake of his Kingdom, and for the sake of desperate and lost souls.

Love is
patient

Love is
kind

Love does
not 
envy

Love does
not boast

Love is
not arrogant

Love is
not rude

Love does
not insist on it’s own way

Love is
not irritable

Love is
not resentful

Love does
not rejoice in wrongdoing

Love
rejoices in the truth

Love
bears all things

Love
believes all things

Love
hopes all things

Love
endures all things

LOVE NEVER ENDS ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Endures All Things


Endure
~Endure
   Greek: ὑπομένω – to remain i.e. abide, not recede or flee

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good
and his loyal love endures.
~ 1 Chronicles 16:34 ~

Resiliency, sustaining, holding fast… I was thinking, you can endure and be very bearish about it, or you can endure with patience. I suppose most of us endure with a mixed bag of emotions… some days better than others. And I suppose there are days when we simply do not endure. We cease “to remain.” It may be that on those days, God sends a fellow sojourner to be that tangible source of endurance for us, until we anchor again. Maybe not. Sometimes He means to be enough for us, allowing us to “feel” the depth of that kind of fatigue. Whatever the nuances, it seems God is very compassionate while calling us to higher ground as we “press on toward the upward call.” Suffice it to say, the word endure more than implies the reality of challenge imbedded in the impossible love list.

There are things you and I endure within the sphere of our own life. There are things we endure as we come alongside others in their struggles. There are things we endure as we wait for our Groom to come for us. There is an enduring aspect to the whole of life. It changes. It shifts. It lessens sometime and intensifies at other times. It does not mean there are not bright elements to enduring. In fact scripture uses the same word describing God’s enduring faithfulness, His goodness, His Kingdom, His Word, and of course, His love. Those are our anchors as Children of God. They do not change, ever.

Love endures all things. Like the tree at the top of this post, it’s meant to be reliable in the storms and something you readily find even if you’re grasping in the dark. The older it gets, the more worn it appears. The truth is, it’s strong as ever. Maybe stronger. The roots below the ground provide the stability to withstand the varying extreme weather. The health of the tree directly affects its ability to endure.

As always, God sets the standard and shows us what it looks like to love by enduring all things. It’s one of the main threads of the whole story since we showed up on the planet. And we see clearly, through the first 14 love traits, how He would have us endure.

So, what does the tangible demonstration of Love Endures All Things looks like? The ESV offers 117 passages to help gain insight into the trait. The most compelling word that comes to mind is steadfastness.

People who love by enduring are anchors themselves. They are steady, strong and reliable. They have their footing. They are branches fixed to The Vine and flowing with the nutrients within it. If you grab hold, they will not snap and break. Healthy younger branches bend and sway. The older ones are thicker, able to bear a greater load. They have fruit on their branches that provide, in this case, sustenance to endure. The fruit is meant to be picked and eaten. It’s not for show.

I know who those people are in my life. I know who I gravitate toward when I feel weak. I also know who not to move toward. But do we know whether or not we are that person for others? Are we a destination for those who feel they cannot go on, who are breaking under the weight of their existence?

‘Endure’ is the one word in all the traits that implies longevity. Patience does as well, but it’s not the same. Endurance has a sage, mature, seasoned inference. I understand why of 15 traits, it’s last. This is the characteristic that speaks to the marathon, not the sprint; to the breadth of life, not the moment. To love by enduring all things is to embody the example of Jesus…

“who for the joy
that was set before him
endured.”

 

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The Impossible Love List – Love Hopes All Things

Hope

You come along side someone in their storm, (bear all things). You help anchor them to the truth, (believe all things). Now it is possible to express love by hoping all things.

Hope ~
Hebrew: בָּטַח – state of confidence, security
Greek: ἐλπίς  – to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence

If you are safely in a boat calling to a man overboard, you do not tell him it’s going to be alright when he is in fact drowning. But it would be kind indeed to offer that truth once he has a good hold of a life-preserver ring. It takes a moment or two to orient after having taken hold, but once done, hope can be brought to bear.

For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
~Psalm 71:5~

God created a linear, forward moving existence for us. It was to have been an uninterrupted experience where we enjoyed intimacy with Him in the context of His creation. He built into our being this wildly creative component called memory so we could carry with us an accumulative experience making every subsequent encounter richer. That may be one of the most stunning, romantic gifts given by our Maker; an eternal, perpetually growing, ever-expanding compilation of encounters of the deepest nature. Eden.

When sin entered the world, a parallel story emerged. That beautiful gift of memory, still the accumulative thing that it was, now expanded with a degenerate ingredient that it did not have initially. It is this reality that has invited people down through the ages to despair, and it’s here that I begin to see the indispensable gift that hope is.

We don’t need an education on what it means to despair. Nor do we need an explanation of brokenness. We feel it. It’s infiltrated the life experience of every single human. We recognize it in each other and in creation. We are constantly invited to buckle under the weight of irreconcilable travesties occurring on every corner of our planet and under our own roofs. No one is exempt.

~

Humankind has demonstrated remarkable resiliency in response to this disintegration, creating and making excellent use of all manner of therapy. Psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy… each has become a well established, highly lucrative industry.

Additionally, the global pharmaceutical drug industry (estimated to bring in 300 billion dollars this year alone), controls much of what happens in our society and government. Mental institutions, prisons, orphanages, homeless shelters, health spas, wellness centers, the vitamin supplement industry, counseling practices, humanitarian/relief organizations, are all offered in response to the corruption of God’s original design.

For all the good this does, it exists to target symptoms, by either treating, masking, altering or reforming. But God offers an actual remedy, reaching the core of the problem. His children are an integral part of the delivery of this remedy. We are commanded to love people, and in the face of despair, to offer hope.

~

One day, this present age will come to an end. The remnant will enter an existence where all has been made right; the massive exhale that says “goodbye” to brokenness and “hello” to everything redeemed. Context and wholeness restored. The book of Matthew says we will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

In the meantime, we experience shadows and moments and glimpses, AND we remind weary people of the surety of our hope; of the surety of the nearness of God. We are a people of hope. It’s meant to characterize us as much as anything else we might be known for.

Love hopes all things. You will never find a shortage of souls desperate to be reminded of the transforming presence of God or of the hope that is to come. Nor will you find words more suited to encourage than those that follow.

For I consider
that our present sufferings
cannot even be compared
to the coming glory
that will be revealed to us.
For the creation eagerly waits
for the revelation of the sons of God.
For the creation
was subjected to futility—
not willingly but because of God
who subjected it—
in hope
that the creation itself
will also be set free
from the bondage of decay
into the glorious freedom
of God’s children.
For we know that the whole creation
groans and suffers together until now.
Not only this, but we ourselves also,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we eagerly await
our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope,
because who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we eagerly wait for it
with endurance.
~Romans 8:18-25~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Believes All Things

Anchor

The final three traits in The Impossible Love List are bound together in a very beautiful way. Their relationship to one another begins on the bedrock of belief.

“I believe,
help my unbelief!”
~ Mark 9:24 ~

I look at the phrase, Love Believes All Things and the first thing I ask myself is, “What do I believe, and how could that be a demonstration of love?” And I wonder, is the accuracy of my beliefs connected to the success of that demonstration? In other words, if my beliefs are unsound, if I believe things that are untrue, will that hamper or prevent me from showing love by believing all things?

If all truth originates and resides in God, and I anchor myself to Him, then I anchor myself to The Truth; I believe The Truth. Christ followers are often called Believers. It’s one of the primary ways I am characterized in scripture.

The Word says that as a Believer, I am provided for in every situation I find myself in. Whether or not I understand the full breadth of what’s happening around me, I have enough truth within my grasp to move forward, (doesn’t necessarily mean I will…. sigh). I might ask myself, “of all the things I don’t know about this particular situation, what do I know?” It helps me orient when I feel disoriented because for every one thing I understand, there are a hundred things I don’t. Nearly always, while I may not get the answers to my many questions, remembering what I believe (what is true), is more than enough to sustain me in my disorientation. That’s a really big deal.

When I think of loving someone by believing all things, I think about being a conduit for that kind of critical orientation. You can bring stability, calm and peace when you help someone anchor or re-anchor to truth. Sometimes they are so hidden in the dark, you believe in their stead while they writhe in the fire of their crisis. Hopefully you can eventually help them grab hold of truth for themselves. But either way, you demonstrate believing all things and God says, that is love.

Parents love their wayward child by believing all things. We love people who are grief stricken by believing all things. We love people in any kind of transition or crisis by believing all things. When you help anchor someone to truth, it’s not really different from throwing a lifeline to a drowning man. He may still be in the water, but he is no longer drowning. From that new orientation you open up for him the possibility of experiencing hope, the next trait in our impossible list. When someone has hope they then have the potential to endure, the final trait. It’s a profound sequence, and easy to see why it’s ordered as it is.

Today, you and I will be in close proximity to many people who are in some phase of personal transition. Those transitions will likely run the full spectrum of the human experience. AND all those encounters carry the potential for us to enter in, as agents of love, by believing all things. That is a Spirit led transaction. I know then where my focus is to be.

“You are my witnesses,”
says the Lord,
“my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may consider
and believe in me,
and understand that I am he.
No god was formed before me,
and none will outlive me.”
~ Isaiah 43:10 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Bears All Things

Hand

Exhale……the home stretch of this journey reveals 4 beautiful descriptions of what love is. I pray we will now look ahead for opportunities to demonstrate these miraculous qualities of love. We’ve saturated ourselves of late in eight anti-love traits. This trait and those that will follow, simply and obviously state love’s true nature.

If you are resolved to the fact that love is an utterly selfless act, you’ll concede that regardless of what might transpire in the lives of your primary people, you are prepared to bear it with them. When you do, you love. There is nothing more stunning, more wonderfully disorienting than having someone stand with you when you are in a storm. It doesn’t matter what kind of storm, how it came, who caused it……when someone who does not have to be there chooses to be there, it speaks love to our core like nothing else.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes.” That’s how the Amplified Version states it. In Genesis chapter 3, when God called for His beloved son and daughter in The Garden in the cool of the day, He was already demonstrating His willingness to bear up under anything and everything that comes. He knew what had just happened, that Eve and Adam had ultimately decided He was not trustworthy, but He pursued them non-the-less. God has been pursuing humanity ever since.

No one has shown us the beauty of bearing all things like God has. So, He asks us to do the same for others, knowing that as we do; as people’s sensibilities are turned on their ear (because you’re there an you don’t have to be), they will have had the “live and in-person” experience of being loved by God.

The implication of loving this way? It will likely be VERY messy, complex and potentially painful. But, this is precisely the kind of demonstration that will speak to a God-less world, convinced that “Christians” are detached, exclusive, elitist, hypocritical and irrelevant. Love that bears all things tells the world, “Welcome. We are open and ready to pay whatever price there is to offer you sanctuary. Jesus did it for us. We will do the same for you.”

We follow God’s lead, not consumed with thoughts of what it will cost us, because we do not pay the bill. We don’t pass judgement because “you got yourself into this mess”. We offer practical help recognizing we have undeservingly received the same. We are emissary’s without any illusions as to what it means to deliver the love of God. Churches are meant to be filling-stations for Children of God, and safe-houses for the downtrodden.

So, rather than looking back, feeling badly when I ask myself, “When’s the last time I invited someone’s difficulties into my tidy existence?” I’m going to look forward. There will be opportunities sooner than I may like to think, where God will invite me to enter the swirling madness of bearing with another person. But in that madness, some needy soul will be given a life-line connected to the Living God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
~ Isaiah 35:3 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Doesn’t Rejoice In Wrongdoing But In the Truth

rejoice

Anti-love is at its core egocentric……. Me pursuing MY agenda. Regardless of how anti-love expresses, the undercurrent is driven by self. Love, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13, is at its core self-less. In fact, self has absolutely nothing to do with the administering of agape love. Nothing.

People who are connected to the Living God love, because God is love. When we love, we are foremost exposing people to love’s Creator rather than to arguably, His greatest characteristic. Find God and you find love along with a treasure load of other eternally valuable things, but make so mistake, God is the end all.

I bowed my head
and worshiped the Lord…
who had led me in the way of truth.
~ Genesis 24:48 ~

Since these two traits are polar opposites, it seems right to look at them side by side. Interestingly, the Greek reveals that rejoice in wrongdoing implies singularity while rejoicing with the truth is a collective response. That I find very interesting.

I’m struck by the jpg of the two hands at the top of the post.  I forced myself to look at this pic for a while and imagine her rejoicing in wrongdoing. What might be happening around her? What’s the rest of the story that the lens doesn’t show? She is engrossed. Then I wonder if those could be my own hands.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me.
~ Psalm 139:23-24 ~

As a culture, we are morally de-sensitized. That’s rubbed off on me. That set of “values” shows up clearly in the world of entertainment, that both shapes and reflects society’s desires. Comedy is self-deprecating, or it comes at the expense of other’s weaknesses. It attacks through humor. Action-films are about vengeance. I cheer when the bad guy “gets what’s coming to him.” Romantic movies sell “love” so short, encouraging me to discard every impediment, including my spouse, to get to my soul mate.  Maybe God would want to have a conversation with me about re-sensitizing, a chat that would be VERY counter-culture! Am I ready for that?

Do I find myself rejoicing in wrongdoing? Many things would have had to transpire, to go unchecked, unheeded, before I came to the place where I was actually rejoicing… fully given to expressing my joy in wrongdoing. That is why I feel such a strong connect between this passage and Romans 1. When God “gave them over” to their passions, He did so because their behavior revealed their full commitment to sin. Rejoicing in wrongdoing is the culmination and ultimate expression of the passion of self.

How do I swing ’round to the other end of the passion spectrum, so it’s God who is the object of my outstretched, upward raised hands? The struggle between flesh and spirit reveals there will always be some duplicity within me…….because I am yet unfinished. God is constantly offering me invitations where I might bend my knee, lay down SELF and embrace Him, the Lover of My Soul. This is yet again, an altar experience. May God give all of us courage to invite Him into the deepest parts of our inner-person. That’s where what we really believe lives.

There is nothing
upon the earth I desire
besides You.
~ Psalm 73:25 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Isn’t Resentful

Ledger

I fall woefully short of loving people as God calls me to. I have a feeling that while God is eager for me to come to terms with that, He is also eager for me not to “camp” there. There is no benefit in self-flagellation. I confess my weakness. I embrace forgiveness. I move humbly forward, aware of grace received, looking for opportunities to extend that same grace. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God. I believe love is from God. It’s FROM Him…. I receive it from Him. I give it to those I encounter.

Anyone who does not love
does not know God,
because God is love.
~ 1 John 4:8 ~

Love -Greek,  ä-gä’-pā =  affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love

Resentment –  anger, bitterness, or ill will

NKJV – thinks no evil.
NIV – keeps no record of wrongs.
NASB – does not take into account a wrong suffered.
Greek,  does not count up wrongdoing.

There is no need to expound greatly on Love Isn’t Resentful. When we or someone we love has been wronged, trust is violated. That is very hard to recover. Often, it’s never recovered. While I may not retaliate outwardly, I can hold an offense inwardly so that it simmers…rendering something highly concentrated, much more potent than it was initially. Sometimes we feel it’s warranted to hold an offense, because the offender “deserves it”. We think it would be foolish to release it, appointing ourselves judge and jury as we interact with that person.

Perhaps God would spare me the self-destruction of holding offenses as much as He would spare the recipient of them. I’m not sure. But I believe He warns us for our good, His father’s heart wanting to spare pain all the way around.

Why is it such a big deal to God that we release resentment? Two things come to mind. Firstly, God does not withhold love from me in the face of my offenses against Him. Ever. This is the kind of monumental truth that deserves a “pause and reflect” before moving on. Secondly, He is both just and the justifier of sin. He intends to act on my behalf in matters of wrongdoing. That leaves me free to extend love as He does….even as I live in the aftermath of being wronged…..even as, to my eyes, nothing has been right-ed.

Can you keep NO record of wrongs? Can you love someone who has wronged you as if they had never wronged you? I cannot, not in and of myself. Father, protect me from harboring resentment and bringing it to bear when I feel I must self-protect. You are my protector. And Lord, forgive me for continually acting as if I am justified in being un-loving toward one who has offended me. In light of Your love toward me, that is a gross offense in itself.

But if anyone slaps you
on the right cheek,
turn to him the other also.
And if anyone would sue you
and take your tunic,
let him have your cloak as well.
And if anyone forces you
to go one mile with him,
go with him two miles.
~ Matthew 5:39-41 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Isn’t Irritable

Irritable

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger
quiets contention.
~ Proverbs 15:18 ~

Irritability is a barometer for restlessness either emotionally, physically or spiritually. It could easily ride the coat-tails of the last anti-love trait, (Love Doesn’t Insist On Its Own Way). When I’m weighing whether or not I will bend my knee to God’s way above my own, I’m often bearish. So draining is the inner churning, that I bring a depleted version of myself to daily life. Nobody gets my best. There’s no escaping the ill-effects of stiff-arming the Living God. I find it profoundly humbling that while I am in that state, God extends His hand should I want to stop digging myself deeper into a hole. He is not impatient or unkind. He waits….. holding what He offers in His hand, ready to exchange it for what is in mine. That is an eternal picture of the love of God.

Some people struggle with very real mood disorders that until diagnosed and treated, may leave them unable to modify irritability. Beyond that kind of physiological imbalance, whatever the cause of my surly disposition, the passage in 1 Corinthians says when I expose that surliness to others, it’s unloving. There are times when I’m not going to be able to withdraw till it passes. There are times I’m going to have to interact with people regardless of the fact I may be legitimately less than I could be…. I have a friend who speaks with The Lord prior to her encounters with people, asking Him to display His love through her, precisely because she very often feels poorly physically. She remarked that it takes so little effort to ask Him, and the yield has been profound for her and for those she connects with. It’s an obvious life-ing out of His strength made perfect in her weakness.

When I’m prickly or contentious, one or two deep breaths is usually long enough for me to identify the source…..usually. Regardless of the cause, I know for certain I’ve allowed the thing to get the best of me, and often at someone else’s expense. My favorite cousin for irritable is fractious. It’s a very vivid rendering of what can happen to unassuming, (or maybe not unassuming) folks in my path. Whatever the variables, I am to be generally agreeable and pleasant if I’m to be loving. This is not an easy endeavour. Everything in my consumerist environment encourages me to be discontent, and discontent people don’t respond to life with a harmonious disposition.

Love isn’t irritable. What is it Irritable Anne is communicating to God and to the people in my path? I shudder to think. But I know it’s not gratitude. I know it’s not satisfaction or joy or peace. I know I’m not thinking about contributing when I’m irritable. I’m absorbed with me. I can’t tackle this one apart from Him and He’s not asking me to. Back to the altar.

Whoever restrains his words
has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit
is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent
is considered wise;
when he closes his lips
he is deemed intelligent.
~ Proverbs 17: 27-28 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Doesn’t Insist On Its Own Way

All the ways of a man
are pure in his own eyes
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
~ Proverbs 16:2 ~

Above all the other traits (she said naively), I approach this trait with fear and trembling. I believe that at the core of nearly every deep work, is a crossroads marked “MY WAY vs. GODS”. I truly do. I believe the deepest layer of any struggle between growth and regression is about trust, or lack of it. I stand at a balance-scale and put my plan on one side, measuring it against my level of trust in God. I don’t know God’s plan (as far as the heavens are above the earth, so His plans are higher than mine), so it’s trust that occupies the other tray on the scale. I’m not even weighing plan against plan. It’s plan against trust.

Every correction, every re-direction in my life has at it’s root, two heels dug in, certain that the path to fulfillment is in the realization of whatever it is I have my heart set on. When I use my brain, there is nothing sound about that approach. On the contrary. To reduce the outcome of a situation to the skewed, conditioned lens that is mine, is ludicrous. Sometimes, it’s more than a trust issue. It’s a battle of wills, except God doesn’t play that game. I chaff against His prodding even when I know there is nothing but heartache on the other end of that path. Maybe I’m tired of waiting for something I think I should have (or someone else should have), so I begin to move, apart from Him.

Loving people practice deference. Loving people leave their care to God, and give what is in their coffers to the people God puts in their path. Loving people understand that their ideas are infinitely smaller than God’s; that the wise thing to do is put them squarely in to the hands of the One who has full knowledge of past, present and future, as well as the power to do anything He desires. They don’t dismiss their ideas, but allow God full access to them, yielding a massive upgrade. They remember that God’s intentions toward them are always good, that He loves them with an eternal, perfect love. And they remember that the work He has begun in them will without doubt, be brought to completion.

To demonstrate love of God, I must trust. I must defer. I must abdicate my ways and desires, and submit, just as Jesus did. To demonstrate love of people, I must serve. I must put others needs above my own, just as Jesus did. There is nothing in my flesh that moves easily with this reality, but it resonates soundly in my spirit, because it is the truth.

A few years back God began to show me that He gives me one day at a time. I am not promised tomorrow. As I practice the discipline of living in this day and no other, I find an ease and “do-ability” about traversing plains that I could not otherwise travel. I find it much easier to yield to Him and His ways. I think that is part of why He designed it so. I also find I am better able to trust. I am not pre-occupied with the future, which is when I typically begin to clamp down on things I am trying to manipulate…… to get my way.

Love does not insist on its own way. If you see your knuckles white from gripping your best laid plans, I encourage you to go to the altar. I’ll probably be there too. You may not even be able to open your hands….but God waits there, arms open to receive you. Even at the altar, He will not force you to release your grip. The age of grace we live in comes with freedom of choice, which He will not circumvent. God is love, therefore He doesn’t insist on His own way, even though it is the path to life.

There is a way
that seems right
to a man,
but its end
is the way to death.
~ Proverbs 14: 12 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Isn’t Rude

Rude

I assumed before I began to investigate this trait, that rudeness (there are a handful of definitions in our dictionaries) was a natural extension of arrogance; that while not all arrogant people are rude, all rude people are arrogant. There may be truth to that, but the thrust of this anti-love trait is revealed in the Greek translation. Love is not rude translates: “does not act unbecomingly,” (aschēmoneō). Unseemly would be a twin. That actually includes the guy that spouts off obscenities to people who make him angry, but unbecoming/unseemly behavior has a much bigger net.

Whatever the manifestation of unbecoming behavior,  to be rude is to demonstrate anti-love. On the surface it doesn’t seem like it would qualify, but when I sit with what lies underneath rudeness, I begin to understand….

At a minimum (though this point should not be minimized), rudeness draws attention to itself. It steals the stage. We live in a day and age where reality TV reflects our insatiable appetite for the outlandish. They are designed for shock value…… a little like craning your neck to see the car accident as you pass by on the freeway.

Unseemly also rears it’s head as our culture maximizes EVERY opportunity to use sex to sell, promote, validate….. seriously. I would be very naive to think that “value” has not seeped deep into my being. I can draw from that destructive ‘well’ without even thinking about it (without even thinking being the key phrase). To some degree, unbecoming behavior is the new norm. It makes it harder to spot as we try to self-check. But apparently, loving people do not draw attention to themselves by behaving rudely.

What does it mean to act unbecomingly? There are a slew of synonyms including being inappropriate, offensive, indecent, indelicate, salacious. Every day I’m in multiple situations with colleagues, family, & strangers I meet. What would it take for me to move from healthy engagement to rudeness? How do I contribute or position myself in those conversations?

Frankly, unless I am very tuned to the voice of The Spirit in me, I may not decipher well. If I’m acting rudely, I’d like to think that right in that moment, my conscience would be pricked. And I’d like to think I would be willing, right in that moment, to make an appropriate adjustment.

The other end of the rude spectrum is probably meekness. Meek people are healthy contributors who do what they do while staying off the radar. They never seek to draw attention to themselves.  They are focused on investing in whomever is in their path. They deflect attention toward the object of their worship. People see the character of Jesus in them, if they notice them at all. God reserves high honor for meek people.

Imagine being so secure of your worth in the eyes of God, that you were never tempted to put yourself center stage by being rude. Imagine being so focused on loving people, such thoughts don’t even surface.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
~ Matthew 5:5 ~

 

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The Impossible Love List – Love Isn’t Arrogant

Arrogant

Only within the Triune God does love exist flawlessly. It’s merited there. Father, Son and Spirit demonstrate all of loves characteristics, all the time. And… God loves humanity. It’s always unmerited. It’s always unearned. It’s never reciprocated adequately yet that does not diminish its flow. God is always offering perfect love to flawed people. Always.

Even in Heaven, He will be the reason we are able to love. Unlike now, He will have access to the whole of our beings without any encumbrances or barriers. No blockage. No baggage. No resistance. Pure love will flow in me and through me. Equally miraculous, I will be free to receive love fully. These days, I sift through carefully. I limit. I do a good bit of self protecting. But not then.

~

Love Isn’t Arrogant

arrogant – having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities

For behold, the day is coming,
burning like an oven,
when all the arrogant 
and all evildoers will be stubble.
The day that is coming
shall set them ablaze,
says the Lord of hosts,
so that it will leave them
neither root nor branch.
~ Malachi 4: 1 ~

My friend just reminded me, boasting requires that words be spoken, and that what we speak reveals the content of our hearts. Arrogance does not require language to communicate. It assumes a superior position most often used to dominate and suppress the weak. It can be packaged all manner of ways. It can come through a church-lady whose smile says “welcome” while she looks you over disapprovingly. It can also come through a smug, unashamed Elitist who dismisses you altogether because you’re not worthy to be ingratiated. Whatever it looks like, its intent is that the high-brows stay “above” the less-thans.

Any sentence that begins with “I deserve”… any inner dialogue that measures another person against my “A” list… any sigh of disgust, or sideways glance, or rolling of the eyes, or “I was here first”, or “don’t you know who I am?”, is arrogance. Class-systems, racial profiles, or religious denominational squabbles are most often rooted in a quest for positioning….for one-upmanship. Arrogance is thievery, taking from God what belongs to Him.

It’s interesting to chew on the implications of the presence of arrogance in The Western Church. We fight a superiority complex that has nearly crippled our influence to a lost world. We know how Jesus felt about the religious folk during His earthly ministry, but the elitism ingrained in our thinking and practice of “spiritual-life” is beyond sifting through. It’s so long-standing……so woven into the fabric of how we do what we do and how we pass on what we believe.

The Sunday School flannel-board lessons of my childhood portrayed Jesus as a tanned white male with a trimmed beard. I assumed He spoke English and had the value system I did as an American Christian. He was my Jesus. He belonged to me and my culture. No one ever said as much but that’s what I took away.  I formed an elitist mentality right from my inception and indoctrination. I loved missionaries and the idea of venturing off to parts unknown with the Gospel, BUT…. the underlining believe was that we were going in to rescue the “lesser-than”….. I did not consciously ‘feel’ superior. I felt compassion. But I promise you, I assumed I was uniquely and superiorly enlightened. With a deep breath and a satisfying sigh I might say, “I’m an American Christian. I’m at the top of the heap. I bring good tidings that includes an invitation to embrace the American dream.”

How do I come out from under the arrogance that is second nature to me? If “pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” and I don’t address it, I have to be willing to accept whatever “falling” will look like. Or, I can ask, and keep asking God to humble me. I have a physical reaction even as I type this sentence, because this is a prayer I pray and I have experienced God’s response to it.

Arrogant Christians are not loving people. Arrogant Christians have forgotten that they are not owners but stewards of people and things and positions; and that they don’t have them because they deserve them. I am certain there is thread upon thread of arrogance that remains woven into my being. But God can snip and pull out every last one of them. That tedious work is uncomfortable, embarrassing and painful….. and absolutely essential.

His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate.
~ Luke 1: 50-52 ~

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The Impossible Love List – Loves Doesn’t Boast

Boasting

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
~Psalm 12:2-4~

Boastto speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself.

It strikes me… these anti-love traits are doing more than just defining bad character. They are saying, “Envious people are not loving people. Boastful people are not loving people.” I’ve missed that glaring point till now. But there in the text of 1 Corinthians 13 are eight anti-love traits. Eight terribly common tendencies within me.

If boastfulness and agape cannot co-exist, then I have some serious adjustments to make. It’s not complicated. How can I love (which is a selfless act), when I am consumed with self, when I feel the need to speak for the purpose of elevating myself? I can’t. Leave it to God to store the big revelations on the low shelf.

The antonyms of boasting are humility, modesty and deprecation. Sometimes it’s easier to identify the presence of a trait by looking at its antithesis. We start getting a lens into why God hates boasting (pride’s identical twin), and places the highest value on a humble heart.

Pride and humility are polar opposites. Humble people recognize their true measure before the living God. A prideful/boastful person is egocentric, with a loose grasp on reality. Some boastfulness is cloaked in self-deprecation. It bears pointing out that false humility is veiled boastfulness. Most of us can smell it a mile away.

It’s no wonder we struggle so profoundly to be humble. Our consumerist society plays to our egocentricity. It lures me to look at myself, see what I lack (they tell me), and reach for “what I deserve.”. The lure encompasses possessions, position and relationships. Jesus’ economy advocates self-less-ness, inviting me to get out of that game. If I do, Consumerism loses its hold altogether. Advertisements are seen for the low-ball, rice-paper thin manipulations they are. They no longer dictate what I’m supposed to do, look like, wear or possess.

How on earth is there any case to be made for boastfulness… except in God? I am a created being who bears the image of her Maker. I am cared for by God in every way. Everything I “possess” I’m meant to steward on His behalf. That includes talents & abilities.

Am I boastful? Sometimes I am. I am always vulnerable to it. But the key seems to be, very simply, to STOP fixating on ME. Look up. Look about. Focus anywhere but inward, and invest there. I’m in no way minimizing the importance of introspection. But it has a specific objective which always leads to the ability to better and more thoroughly serve God and people.

Selfless people are not boastful. Selfless people get that life is not about them. The ultimate example, of course, is Jesus, who actually could have boasted in Himself. He chose instead to show us a path that reflects the way things actually are, not the delusions conjured up by our pre-occupation with self.

Loving people don’t boast. Loving people deflect praise, simply re-directing it where it belongs. They recognize the source of every good and perfect gift. They understand that the air they breath and their ability to draw it in to their lungs, is an extension of the power and grace of God. To be boastful would seem an absurdity to them. That’s accurate.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
~Psalm 34:1-3~

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The Impossible Love List – Love Doesn’t Envy

Envy

I’m wary as I consider writing about each description found in The Impossible Love List. I had no intention of doing so and still have one foot out…but I feel a familiar tug to explore here. So, I’m looking at the list of 15 characteristics, plus a powerful punch line. Seven words describe what love is. Eight describe what it is not.

For the first time I stop to think about why more than half the list tells me what love isn’t. God could have revealed the positive attributes and left me to recognize that anything contrary would be love’s antithesis. But already I see how vital it is that I know specifically what love is not. The 8 anti-love traits all speak to very common core responses in humankind.

Love Is Not Envious – 

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, 
but envy makes the bones rot.
~Proverbs 14:30~

ENVY – “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.

We get our first look at envy in Genesis 4. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Cain was furious. God addressed the matter with Cain, warning him about the pitfalls inevitable should he not right his attitude. But Cain remained incensed, (I’m jettisoned back to Romans 1, remembering the slippery slope that ingratitude initiates. See A Path to Imprisonment Pt. 1). So Cain, despite being warned by God that sin was very near to him, took control of his future (idolatry), murdered his brother (immorality), and spent the rest of his life under a curse, modified to preserve his life (imprisonment).

I think as we explore the anti-love list we will see glimpses of this progression throughout. And, to be fair, if envy is another name for dis-contentment, we have to concede that Genesis 3 started the ball rolling. Cain wasn’t there to witness, but doubtless he heard the stories from his mom and dad about the way things “used to be” and why they aren’t that way anymore. It would be very interesting to know how those stories were told.

What is envy, if not the revelation that I doubt the goodness of God? I want something He either gave to someone else or is withholding. It’s a big enough deal to God that it made its way onto the top ten “thou shalt not” list. But as I’ve been reminded, long before there was a list of don’ts, there were lists upon lists of yes’s! God meant for us to enjoy our lives with Him, to enjoy the context in which He placed us….. with Him. He intended for us to be people fulfilled, satisfied, experiencing the bounty that life can bring with Him. His limited restrictions were in fact safeguards to protect us and the life He set before us.

Do you wonder why, right from the beginning, we doubted His goodness? Do you wonder why only one “no” would cause us to call into question His trustworthiness? A couple of days ago I was reading Mike Patz’s latest blog titled, Envy is Idiotic. He says, “It’s not that we’re not satisfied. It’s that we’re not satisfiable.” That resonates with me. What is the insatiable thing in humanity’s core that refuses to be content…. even with Eden!? God gives me a huge gift by warning me about the tendency that lies within every human. He is benevolently calling me to higher ground to save me…. from myself. I believe that call is His voice of mercy in my ear.

Envy is the spark that ignites the wild-fire of self-destruction. What am I envious of? What are the things, situations or people triggering that switch in my gut, causing me to feel regret for what I don’t have? The door by which Envy enters is ingratitude. Better than telling myself to stop being envious, I ought to recite what I have….. most of which I haven’t earned and likely don’t deserve. Recite it over and over as need be. Write it down…. anywhere…. everywhere if necessary, so it CANNOT be forgotten.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. While I have so VERY much to be grateful for, it seems I’m always being offered ingratitude. Among other things, “Black Friday” looms, having fixed itself upon an arguably sacred day; one day set aside to remember what we have and from whom it came. I recognize that “black” reflects profit vs. loss, but for me, it is simply a dark invitation to consume. The paradox is pretty stunning. Our entire culture is banking on my unrest and greed. But I do not have to bite. Neither do you. My life is about God……not about me. A mind fixed on Him will have no trouble letting praise abound toward Heaven.

The one who offers thanksgiving 
as his sacrifice 
glorifies Me.
~Psalm 50:23~

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The Impossible Love List – Love is Kind

Kindness

I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them
as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
 and I bent down to them and fed them.
~Hosea 11:4~

I ponder the list of love traits found in 1 Corinthians 13, wondering if it might be offered because God asks broken humans to seek out relationship with other broken humans. If it were easy to interrelate with another person would God have needed to be so thorough in articulating the characteristics of Godly loving? Apparently loving successfully, in God’s economy, means we are going to have to do things and behave in ways that run counter-intuitive to us.

Perhaps only in the display of genuine love, one human to another, is the core of the gospel revealed. God relentlessly loves broken, unaware, egocentric, self-destructive, ungrateful people. And He asks us to do the same. It’s a command that would seem perfectly reasonable if I were truly clued in to the depth of my own unmerited favor in God’s eyes. The field upon which sinful man stands is level. Every human past present and future is shoulder to shoulder, irrespective of  maladies.

The invitation to come into relationship with God through Jesus is extended to everyone. Some of us accept it. Some of us reject it. But all of us are longed for and sought after by a loving Creator. That in and of itself is the ultimate display of kindness, the second characteristic of the impossible love list.

~

Love is kindχρηστεύομαι khraste-yoo’-om-ahee; to show oneself useful, i.e. act benevolently:—be kind.

Kindness has many forums for expression but these days my mind jets immediately to kindness that leads to repentance, (Romans 2:4). Think of the scene in Les Misérables, when the parson offers his last treasures to the thief rather than expose him to the authorities. There the love of God was expressed as a powerful act of kindness toward a person primed for judgment. That scene profoundly portrays the way God loves me and gives me an arguably sobering lens into the way I’m called to love other people.

God also makes it clear that acts of kindness to the marginalized in our society, are an act of love toward Him, (Matt. 25:36-40). To be kind is to be Christ-like. To be kind is to give another human a glimpse into the heart of God. God is love and love is kind. In fact, to extend kindness is to be the love of God to another, (Galatians 5:22-23).

Dr. Gary Chapman names 5 “love languages” as being THE primary ways people are able to receive love. All of them, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time & Physical Touch require kindness before they are genuine demonstrations of love. It’s a core element without which these love languages cannot be successfully delivered.

In the ESV, kindness is referenced 27 times, kindly 16 times. You would be amazed, if you took time to read through these passages, the massive implications of kindness given or withheld. It impacts the moment and reaches far into the future for better or for worst.

The call to kindness is no small thing. When Jesus said, “this new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you,” He was saying a whole lot more than any of us imagine.

Is it kindness when we love a kind person? Yes. But the measure of our understanding of Gods kindness to us, comes as we are kind to those who would push us to the fringes of our sensibilities.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness
is on her tongue.
~Proverbs 31:26~

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The Impossible Love List – Love is Patient

Patience

patience – μακροθυμέω mak-roth-oo-meh’-o; to be long-spirited
JKV = suffereth long

What does it look like to be patient? I know from experience that I can have 2 people in my life, both displaying the same kind of behavior, one will “try my patience,”  the other will not. I don’t have to reach for patience with one and I do with the other. The hard truth is, the discrepancy lies with me.

To extend patience is to extend Agape, a love I am commanded by Jesus to give. I am to respond to people and situations that wear on me as one who “suffereth long.” I am to be, as the Greek defines it, a woman who is “long-spirited.” I respond the thousandth time as I did the first time, when the “thing” did not try me in any way. Impossible? It is for me. Yet for Jesus, this is a non-negotiable.

There are many scenarios that test my patience. Personally, my ugly impatience (redundant) will most often present toward someone I’ve known for an extended period. It’s the unpleasant cycles that wear me down and invite me to dismiss a person I ought to be willing to respond to patiently. When I respond wrongly, I wound the person. I tell them through my behavior, “I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for you. I’m not interested in pushing through with you to get to a better place, nor am I willing to do for you what God is, even now, doing for me.”

More and more, when I experience the struggle to exercise patience, I am struck with a heightened awareness of my own sin. What separates me from the love of God? What behavior might I display toward Him that would cause Him to respond to me impatiently?

Sigh and pause. I am not easy to love. Yet I am loved… by Love Himself.

This is what I hear: “Anne, go out and love by being patient, and realize it’s not really love you’re dispensing until it’s openhandedly spent on someone who tries your patience. Draw from what is deposited to your ‘love’ account. Spend it all. I am always depositing more. You can afford to be exceedingly generous…. as I am with you.”

“We love
because He first loved us.”

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