Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Want to Know What Love Is?

As I read through the thirteenth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the classic rock song of the 80's comes to mind - Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love is." In chapter twelve, Paul outlines and explains the different spiritual gifts that are given through the manifestation of the Spirit. These are wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between the spirits, and finally, speaking in tongues. Paul then goes on to explain that while no one person has all of these gifts, as the body of Christ, we do in sum and on the whole. Each of us participates by offering their part to the larger body. Nevertheless, there's something even more significant...

A simple answer to Lou Gramm's vocals would be to have a look at I Corinthians 13 - what is commonly referred to as The Love Chapter. What Paul is saying here is that while we can have all these manifestations of the Spirit, it doesn't really matter if we don't have something else; that something else of course is love. We can have all the wisdom and knowledge in the world and yet we really have nothing. In the words of Solomon, a life without love is meaningless.

As I look over the characteristics of love found in verses 4 and following, I'm honestly a little bit troubled. I'm perplexed because I too, want to know what love is and I'm afraid that I don't have it? But it's right here, in these very verses that we find out precisely what love is and isn't. First of all, what is love? It is patient, kind, and rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Secondly, what love is not? It does not envy, it doesn't boast, it isn't proud. It is not rude, nor self seeking, and it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and it doesn't delight in evil. Last of all, it never fails or ends.

Wow! What a list and yet how do we live up to such a high calling? How often am I patient and kind; content with my life as opposed to envious of others. As opposed to some of the other loves that we find in the greek language, the type of love Paul is referencing here has nothing to do with how we might feel. For example, we might not feel like doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, but we know that by doing so we take some of the weight off the shoulders of our spouse so that they don't have to do it. That's agape love. Maybe we're in a situation where we could be everything but kind. In other words, we don't FEEL like responding in a kind way. Well, as before, the type of love Paul is talking about here has little if nothing to do with how we feel. It's about responding in a kind way despite our feelings to do the opposite. This too is agape love. It's an act of the will.

The simple fact is there may be days, weeks, or even longer periods where we might not feel "in love" with our husbands or our wives. This might be for a variety of reasons, but know this: we can still respond in a loving way. By an act of the will and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can respond with love despite how we might feel. So, if you want to know what love is, let not your feelings be your guide. Think of love as a verb instead.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Free Coffee!

This morning I had something happen to me that I've never experienced before. Because I had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time, I needed an extra dose of caffeine. And what better place is there to get a strong dose of coffee than at Starbucks. It was raining, so I pulled through the drive-through instead. When I made it up to the window, I had my money in hand and ready to go. Emily (I think that was her name) told me that I was all set. The driver in front of me had paid for my coffee. The message that Emily gave to me from the driver was "Have a nice day!" Even now, I'm a little speechless and unsure of what to say.

I wanted to find this person so that I could thank them, but to be honest with you, it was dark and I wasn't paying any attention to who was in front of me. The car was a dark color - that's all I remember. As I was driving away, I quickly perused the parking lot looking for this person. He or she was apparently gone.

The thing that strikes me about this is that he or she didn't expect anything back in return. I didn't get a business card or anything. There is no way, as far as I can tell, how I could ever track down this person to thank them. Maybe if I was paying attention I could have gotten their license plate, but as I mentioned, that was the last thing on my mind. This person chose to bless me with a free cup of coffee expecting nothing in return. Writing and thinking about this still sounds weird.

I don't know if this person was a Christian or not but this is precisely what one might expect from someone that professes the Christian faith. Doing something like this to a neighbor, a friend, or as in this case, a complete stranger, is a random act of kindness that speaks volumes. I'm a believer and this speaks loud and clear to me. As Christians, we should be different. We should be doing things that show others how Christ is making a difference in our lives. Matthew 5:16 comes to mind: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." In a book that I'm reading along with the leadership of the church, titled The Church of Irresistable Influence, it talks about the need for Christians to offer compelling proof. Our lives should build bridges of proof to the outside world around us. The authors then go on to make this rather startling point:

"If we [Christians] can't outlive the world at every point - in our marriages, with our children, at work, with money, in our relationships, in the use of our time - why dare to speak of salvation and the abundant life. Incarnation of the Word must precede and empower the proclamation of the Word. "

What are you doing that is building bridges of proof? How are you living your life so as to show others that you are different? The good news is that you and I can start building bridges of proof even today. After all, with coffee spots like Starbucks and others rising in popularity, the coffee is always on!