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One lesson in life to learn thoroughly is Love
In life, there is only one lesson to be learned thoroughly and that is: “to love and to be loved.” If we learn this well, we will be truly blessed.
God is Love1 and God wants us to love and to be loved. Jesus summarizes all the commandments into two commandments2: Love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.
First and foremost, God wants us to know:
· That He first loved us3;
· That we are loved unconditionally by Him4;
· That we are lovable5.
This is not as easy as it seems, even monks have difficulty at times to understand this, as Henri Nouwen stated:
“I suddenly saw much better than before that one of the greatest temptations of a monk is to doubt God’s love. Those who enter a contemplative monastery with the intention of staying for life must be very much aware of their own brokenness and need for redemption.” (“The Genesee Diary”, Oct 27 1974)
“What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, if. . . ” There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related event or circumstance. Does this mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into a relationship with us and wants us to love Him in return.
“Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.” (“Bread for the Journey,” Feb 5)
Mother Teresa tells us that there is really one Gospel message and that is:
“What was the good news Christ came to announce?
God is love.
God loves each one of us.
God loves me.
God loves you.
God has made you and me for greater things: to love and to be loved. We are not just numbers in the world.” (Loving Jesus, 58)
“The whole gospel is very, very simple. Do you love me? Obey my commandments. He’s turning and twisting just to get around to one thing: love one another.” (No Greater Love, 21)
The acid test of true love is that we have to forget self. We must not live only for ourselves. We must not think only of ourselves. I must not have the attitude---none others but myself only.
So for us to truly love, we have to be:
· Self-giving---giving our time, talent and money to serve others unselfishly
· Self-sacrificing---thought for others, altruism, sacrifice oneself, putting oneself last.
· Self-dying---a dying to self, a greater consideration for others.
Unfortunately, many of us fail to learn to love well. Why? This is because we are stubborn, rebellious and stiff-necked. We find it difficult to practise unconditional love. We are so full of SELF. We are all selfish by nature. We normally look after ourselves first, last and always.
Our Selfish Nature consists of:
· Self-centeredness---looking at self, watching self, examining self and always regarding self.
· Self-conceit---how highly we think of our abilities and how ready we are to defend self and to condemn the same things in others!
· Self-indulgence---we are very indulgent with self; we prohibit things in the other person but it does not matter if we do the same things ourselves.
· Self-pleasing---always doing things that please us.
· Self-seeking---always looking out for self interest, never others.
· Self-pity---always complaining about the unfair treatment we receive and giving excuses for our misbehavior.
· Self-sensitivity---how touchy we are, how easily wounded, imagining difficulties and attacks, seeing them when they are not there, an ultra sensitivity.
· Self-defensiveness---always on the defensive, waiting for people to be unpleasant so that we can lash out at them.
· Self-righteousness---demanding our right, believing we are always right and others wrong
· Self-sufficiency---we want to be in a position to boast that ‘I am a self-made man who worships his creator (himself).’
· Self-gratification---we seek to satisfy all our needs, sometimes excessively.
Fortunately, God is very, very kind and patient with us and He gives us examples of ways of loving to follow from the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13.
It is worthwhile to click and see how www.tommyswindow.com in the PowerPoint slides on page 12 illustrates this “love chapter” for us in items A and B below:
A) Love and 1 Corinthians 13---commentary by Peter Amsterdam
“Love is very patient and kind,
never jealous or envious,
never boastful or proud,
never haughty or selfish or rude.
Love does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable or touchy.
It does not hold grudges and will hardly
even notice when others do it wrong.
It’s never glad about injustice, but
rejoices whenever truth wins out.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (The Living Bible)
I spent some time going through this list, to expand on what it actually means by looking up some of the definitions of the words, in the hope that it would help us understand even more about love with “skin,” since we are supposed to interact with others as Jesus does.
So here it is
Maybe you could call this the “skin translation”
Love is very patient
It is able to endure waiting or being delayed without becoming annoyed or upset. It can persevere calmly when faced with difficulties. It’s able to tolerate difficult circumstances. It can tolerate being hurt, provoked, or annoyed, without complaint or loss of temper.
Love is Kind
It has a generous and warm nature. It shows compassion. It has sympathy for the suffering of others, and it shows a desire to help them. It shows courtesy and cares about others
Love is never jealous
It doesn’t feel suspicious about a rival’s or competitor’s influence. It doesn’t get suspicious about others in regard t a loved one. It doesn’t demand excessive loyalty.
Love is never envious
It doesn’t have the resentful or unhappy feeling of wanting someone else’s success, or good fortune, their qualities, or their possessions. It doesn’t compare with others.
Love is never boastful
It doesn’t make proud statements. It doesn’t say or write something that praises yourself. It doesn’t arrogantly refer to your possessions or your achievements.
Love is never proud
It doesn’t have feelings of superiority or a haughty attitude, believing---often unjustifiably---that you are better than others. It doesn’t have an exaggerated opinion of your own personal worth or abilities.
Love is never haughty
It doesn’t behave in a superior, condescending, or arrogant way.
Love is never selfish
It’s not concerned with your own interests, needs, and wishes, while ignoring those of others.
Love is never rude
It’s not ill-mannered. It’s not disagreeable or discourteous in manner or action.
Love does not demand its own way.
Love is not irritable
It isn’t easily annoyed or exasperated. It’s not likely to become, or to make someone else, angry or upset.
Love does not hold
It doesn’t hold feelings of resentment or ill will.
Love is never glad
about unfair treatment that others experience
It’s happy when the truth comes out and it solves such matters.
We hope seeing this “skin list” has given you some food for thought. If we’re to be like Jesus, then we have to translate the way Jesus is into our everyday lives.
So let’s do the best that we can, SHALL WE?
B) 1 Corinthians 13 for Today---Adapted by Josie Clark from an article by Maria Fontaine
Jesus gave us the key to happiness and harmony when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)
What exactly does that mean, in practical, everyday terms?
One of the best explanations ever given is found in the Bible’s “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13.
Times and terms have changed, but the underlying principles are as true as ever.
Here’s how the apostle Paul might have put it if he were writing to us today.
1. Though I can speak five languages and talk intelligently on dozens of subjects, if I don’t have enough love to keep from gossiping or putting down others, I’m not just making so much useless noise, I’m being downright destructive.
2. And though I read the Bible regularly and even know parts of it by heart, and though I pray daily and have a lot of faith and other spiritual gifts, if I don’t have enough love to sometimes sacrifice some of my personal desires for others’ sakes, then all of my “spirituality” amount to nothing.
3. And though I work two jobs to provide for my family, and though I give to charity and volunteer for every community project that comes up, if I don’t show love and kindness to those I live and work with, all my hard work and self-sacrifice are worthless.
4. Love has a long, hard, frustrating day at the office, yet doesn’t get snappy and short-tempered.
Love is happy for the other guy when he gets all the breaks.
Love doesn’t have to drive the flashiest car, live in the biggest house, or have all the latest gadgets.
Love doesn’t always have to be the boss or have the last word.
5. Love isn’t rude or crude, isn’t selfish, and doesn’t gripe, guilt-trip or pressure others to get what it wants.
Love is too busy being concerned about the needs of others to spend much time worrying about its own.
Love doesn’t freak out when things don’t go its way.
Love is quick to believe the best about people and slow to believe the rest.
6. Love hates to hear gossip and instead wants only to talk about others’ good qualities and the good that they’ve done.
Love knows that what it listens to, watches, or reads will affect its attitudes and actions and thereby have and effect on others, so it’s careful about how it spends its time.
7. Love is flexible, takes everything in stride, and can handle whatever comes its way.
Love is always ready to give others the benefit of the doubt and looks for the best in them.
Love wants to see others reach their full potential and does all it can to make that happen.
Love never runs out of patience, even with those who are slow to get with the program or do their share.
Love doesn’t keep looking at its watch when others are talking.
8. Love never fails. I fail others, and others can fail me.
We all can be mistaken, misguided, or confused at times.
Our words and deeds often fall short, and our bright ideas don’t always play out the way we want or expect them to.
9. We’re frail, fallible, and often foolish, and our understanding of the world we live in, not to mention the world to come, is only partial at best.
10. But when God’s Spirit of love lives in us, that changes everything.
11. We’re really just children when it comes to practising real love, but God can help us outgrow our childish ways.
12. Without Him we’re clueless when it comes to love and the other things that matter most in life, but when we live in His kingdom---the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus is even now within us---we can see things as He does, get our priorities straight, pull out the stops, and live and love to the full.
13. There are lots of nice things in life and lots of good things, but none are as good or as important as love!
We are aware that the best mountaineers know that they need experienced guides when they climb unfamiliar mountains. Similarly, we need the best guide in the person of Jesus Christ, who came down from Heaven, to show us how to love. Unfortunately, we are willful and would not ask for His help. Only when we are driven by despair or suffering or adversity would we be willing to turn around and go to Him for help to teach us about love.
To begin to learn the lesson on love, particularly in family relationship, I need constantly to remind myself of the following:
1. When Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, He forgave, without any condition, the people who crucified Him by asking His Father God to:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”6
2. Like the prodigal son I need to turn back to my Father and ask for His forgiveness:
'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. . . ”7
3. Most importantly I have to forgive endlessly and to remember the genius of Mother Teresa where she has distilled the lesson on love, for practical daily purposes, with these statements:
“Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113)
“We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” (“A Gift for God”, 18)
It takes God to transform me to forgive endlessly. But I know that if I turn around and go to Him, He will perform the mighty miracle as:
“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”8
So, let us learn our lesson on love with Jesus as our guide!
1. 1 John 4:8 (TEV) “God is love. . .”
2. Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
3. 1 John 4:19 (TEV) "we love because God first loved us"
4. John 10:11 (TEV). “I am the good Shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep”
5. Isaiah 43:4 (TEV) "You are precious to me...because I love you"
1 John 4:9 (TEV) "God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him"
6. Luke 23:34 (NKJV)
7. Luke 15:11-32 (NKJV) Then He (Jesus) said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.' But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.' "
8. Luke 18:27 (NKJV)
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