Unselfish Love

pureloveblog(Love) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, (1 Corinthians 13:5)

If you love with God’s love, you will love with selflessness.

Jesus models selflessness for us. Jesus was selfless to come to earth. He set the standard. He notices our selflessness and honors it. We look around and wonder why hunger exists or why our neighbors are struggling. We can get paralyzed by the needs around us, wondering why they exist and what impact we can possibly have, but figuring it out is God’s job, not ours. He understands. We simply need to respond and let God use our selflessness.

Jesus’ display of selflessness shows His love for us. We cannot be selfless on our own. We must yield to Jesus, becoming like Him and living His love out loud in order to be selfless as He intends. Jesus is God’s love lived out loud on earth. Our selfless obedience lives God’s love out loud in our communities. We live out God’s love by how we respond to Jesus’ selflessness.

Let’s savor Jesus’ selflessness today.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:26-30)

When our selflessness is like Jesus’ and is rooted in God’s love, we have purpose. We are fulfilled. Jesus fulfills us. His selflessness gives us purpose.

 

Dear God, instill in me a passion for the injustice You see in the world. I admire You for Your unselfish love, how You love whomever needs Your love, including me. I want to be as generous and as selfless. Open my eyes and heart and spur me to love others in Your name.

Love Without Arrogance

pureloveblogLove does not brag and is not arrogant. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

If you love with God’s love, you will love without arrogance.

Arrogance is conceit. It’s an inflated sense of self-importance, ability, achievements, or worth. It’s connected with bragging. We can be arrogant without bragging, but it won’t last for long. Pride always finds a way of wiggling out. None of these things can exist within love. Because arrogance puts a focus on self, it can’t selflessly love others, which is a requirement of God’s love. Arrogance includes a disregard for others. Love never does.

Living out God’s love always involves a desire to please Him. When we desire to seek to live in and by God’s love, it’s never a burden, because God’s love includes a joy and peace in servanthood. Arrogance, on the other hand, demands the right to do whatever is selfishly wanted. Arrogance rejects the authority of God. Love not only acknowledges the authority of God but savors it.

The church isn’t void of arrogance. It seems it should be. After all, if arrogance and God’s love don’t co-exist, and God’s love (presumably) resides among God’s people, there should be no arrogance in the church. However, people in the church are just as susceptible to distortions of God’s truth as others. Yes, they should be more alert against and more aware of the possibilities of distortions and distractions, but that’s not always the case.

People in the church can think they have reached some level of spiritual status and then look down on others who haven’t reached the same maturity. Pride can sneak into our attitudes when we begin to think of ourselves as more humble than others. People in the church can boast about their spiritual accomplishments and brag about all their good deeds. We live in pride when we believe we are beyond reproof, even when we only reject certain types of reproof. We cannot become like the Pharisees who saw themselves as spiritual experts but missed the point of Jesus’ teachings and the possibilities of relationship with God.

Instead, we need to see ourselves as God sees us—nothing more and nothing less. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Love is sacrificial and selfless. There is nothing self-centered about it. It is centered on God and God alone. The opposite of love isn’t hate. Hate is the absence of love. The opposite of love is pride. Everything that we can say love isn’t is connected to pride. Everything that distorts or diminishes love is rooted in pride. Arrogance isn’t just behavior; it’s an attitude. And it’s a heart problem.

Arrogance isn’t just about putting oneself on top but also putting oneself on the bottom. Pride can be self-pity and self-loathing as much as it can be a grandiose sense of self. Either way assumes the person has a more accurate sense of position and worth than God does.

God defines who we are, and it is only when we are humble in our relationship with Him that we accurately receive and give God’s love. We cannot refuse to recognize our weaknesses. We cannot use God’s Word in an unloving way and adversely affect the unity of the church body or individual freedom and conviction in Jesus.

 

Dear God, pull out any hint of arrogance in me. It’s so difficult to ward off the encouragement toward pride that surrounds me. But I want to be humble, and I want to be humble in authentic ways. No falsehoods. No pretenses. Teach me to start in the center of Your love and grow outward from there. With any hint of pride, pull me back to the center and prepare me to serve You and others in an accurate reflection of Your love.

 

Love Without Jealousy

pureloveblogLove is not jealous. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

If you love with God’s love, you will love without jealousy. God’s inclusion of jealousy not being part of love might seem confusing at first glance. After all, God declares Himself as jealous: for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14) However, there is no contradiction. God cannot be both love and jealous but demand that love is not jealous, referring to the same type of jealousy.

There is a difference between being jealous of something or someone and for someone. God, whose name is Jealous, is jealous for someone: us. He desires the best for us. God’s jealousy is zeal; it’s a fervent passion. God loves us so much that He is fervently passionate for us. On the other hand, being jealous of something is envy, and it’s what God warns is not a part of love. Envy is rooted in selfishness and comparison. It’s saying, “If I had _________, I could be happy, too.” or “If I didn’t have _________, I could be happy, too.”

Women are frequently jealous of each other. It can be little things like hair style or color, new shoes, or weight. It can be families, houses, or jobs. It can be ministry positions, respect, or spiritual gifts. Whether it’s big or small, we need to call it what it is: envy. We want what someone else has. And we’re not sure we want what we have.

God gives us a gift, and we’re thrilled with it…at first. Then we see what He gave someone else. Humph. We want that because, in our opinion, it’s better, bigger, more important. We complain about it even though we know God loves us and gave us our own gift to exactly fit who we are and what we need as we live out the life He intends for us, but envy seeps in, and we start to question, “So does my gift mean that I’m not as important as her? Am I not as worthy? Does God not love me as much? Did I do something wrong?” Even if God switched out your gift to give you someone else’s, a third person would come along, and you’d start the whole process over again!

Envy is a vicious cycle. When we’re not satisfied, we’re usually determined not to be satisfied no matter what’s going on around us. Envy and discontentedness are tightly woven together.

Before you get too discouraged with what love is not and how you’re not sure how to get it out of your life, I want to remind you of how God works even our sin and lack of love in our lives for His good. This is in no way intended to encourage you to overlook anything going on in your life and heart that is inconsistent with God’s will, but I think we all need encouragement, pointing us toward God’s mercy and redemption.

Consider the account of Joseph in Genesis. After Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers—the dreams about how they would bow down to him—his brothers were angry and jealous. Joseph was their father’s favorite son. They plotted to killed him but sold him into slavery instead. God’s plan prevailed and through the gift of dreams and interpreting dreams—the same gift that was the “last straw” for the brothers’ jealousy—Joseph ended up in a well-respected appointed position and many years later extended generous grace and provision to the same brothers who mistreated him:

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:1-8)

Aren’t you thankful God works through all of our circumstances? Even when it seems we’re in the darkest pit, we can trust God’s plan. We might not like where we are. We might not understand. But we can trust—trust that God is pursuing us. And He sees your life from a perspective that only He can see. He’s passionate about you; He’s zealous for you…and He’s not going to let you down!

 

Dear God, I am thankful that You have a plan and that I can trust You. Thank You for Your zeal for me. Thank You for pursuing me. Help me to readily accept Your zeal yet ward off any envy that is not Your will. I want to love You with a zeal that’s reflective of Yours. I want to pursue You with passion.

Love is Kind

pureloveblogLove is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

If you love with God’s love, you will love with kindness.

Jesus models kindness for us. He extends His kindness by doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Consider His healing of the lepers in Luke 17.

While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” (verses 11-19)

These men couldn’t heal themselves. They needed someone to help them, but they faced barriers of isolation. They needed someone to reach across the boundaries and into their deepest needs in order to move beyond where they were into a life full of hope. They needed Jesus.

Jesus didn’t have to help that day. He had plenty of other things He could have been doing—very good things, such as teaching His disciples and followers or correcting the many wrongs being done in the name of God by religious authorities of the day. But Jesus doesn’t stay in the “safe” zone of an inner circle of friends and family or even church family. His kindness wasn’t dependent on a specific heritage. His kindness was dependent on need—and it still is.

In some way, you need Jesus right now. He knows your needs better than you know them. You might take your perceived needs to Him and wonder why He’s withholding His kindness from you, but He’s not. His response is always kind, so however He responds in every circumstance to every plea comes out of His kindness.

Let Him move in your life—even when you don’t comprehend exactly what that means or looks like. Jesus is kind to you. As you rely on Him and His love, you extend that kindness to others around you.

 

Dear God, I need You. I need Your kindness and You love. There are days when I feel strong, but so many times I am weak. You know that even when I feel strong, if I’m not relying on Your strength, I am not strong. I long for Your presence and provision. I am grateful that You continue to pour into me even when I don’t use Your provision as You intend. Open my eyes and heart in those unyielding blind places.

Patient Love

pureloveblogLove is patient. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

If you love with God’s love, you will live with patience.

Waiting isn’t my favorite pastime, but I’m learning to appreciate it. I could blame the culture in which I was raised and now live. After all, we’re all told we shouldn’t have to wait. We live in the “now” times. But no matter what my experiences and education, I don’t have an excuse. I know better. God tells me I’m going to have to wait. In fact, waiting is rewarded.

Yet those who wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

I’m learning to ask a few questions when I’m waiting.

  • Why am I frustrated with the wait?
  • How does God prefer I respond in the wait?
  • What can I learn from and about God while waiting?

Waits can be frustrating regardless of the length of wait. Whether I’m waiting for God to provide some clear direction or relief from a struggle, or I’m waiting for an exorbitantly long line at the store or wait time for a customer service call, I can tap my toe, sigh, and get irritable. I can even justify my irritable response and demand I have a right to improved response time. But when I pause to ask myself the above questions, my perspective changes.

Why am I frustrated? Because of my own expectations. I think I deserve prompt attention or response. Or sometimes I’m frustrated because of simple impatience. I feel pressured to be somewhere else or to do something else, and I’m being held back from those things. In reality, I’ve created the pressure by over-scheduling, not allowing enough time, or infusing expectations on myself or others that just aren’t accurate or fair.

How does God prefer I respond in the wait? This is a fun one. The simple answer is usually “with patience,” but what’s fun is that He provides some amazing opportunities in the wait. Sometimes it’s simply looking around and noticing what’s going on around me. I might learn something about myself because of what I see in someone else or remember something I had forgotten. Sometimes God places a need right in front of me, and I have the opportunity to serve during the wait. Service comes in all sizes and time frames, and I love to be a part of the weaving of each other’s lives even in the least expected places.

What can I learn from and about God while waiting? He’s dependable. He’s present. He knows. He cares. I can learn from and about God in every single situation in my life; it just depends on if I’m actually watching and listening. When I’m in a hurry, when I’m impatient, I’m less likely to be watching and listening. When I’m waiting, I can choose to be frustrated or I can choose to be patient. It is in those patient times that I often learn the most. God confirms what He says about Himself in His Word. He repeatedly reveals the truth of who He is. I just have to be willing to receive it.

Whether it’s a season or a moment of waiting, you will not go long without waiting. How will you respond?

 

Dear God, despite my struggles with waiting and patience, I know both are in Your will. I don’t want to lazily or passively wait. I want to actively pursue You through the waiting process. I know that You don’t want me to check out. You intend for me to remain engaged, and I am committed to You. I commit to leaning into You and becoming closer to You no matter what season I’m in. I praise You for Your provision and guidance, every step of the way.

Love or Nothing

pureloveblogIf I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

Empty acts of service and offering, void of God’s love, are worthless. Yet because we want structure in our lives, we often go down the path of empty service and offering. We do the good thing without checking to ask God if it’s the godly thing.

We sometimes serve, claiming it’s because we want to honor God, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, we have other reasons. We like to hang out with the people who are serving. We like the attention or recognition. We enjoy having time away from home. We’d like to move on to something else, but we’d rather stay where we’re comfortable and not take a risk. We don’t know who else would take our place, so we serve out of guilt or obligation.

Some of these reasons aren’t bad in and of themselves, but any reason that overshadows our desire to serve God with our whole hearts distracts us from the purpose of serving. If we sacrifice without love, we basically cancel out the sacrifice.

The same is true with using the gifts God has given us. If we try to use them without love, we’re really not using them at all. If we live in faith that’s void of love, we really don’t have faith as we believe we do. Anything that we do for God that is void of love, isn’t truly for God, because God and His love aren’t separated. We cannot contradict our giving, service, sacrifice, and faith from His love and still call it godly.

Don’t get all stressed out about whether or not God is “counting” your efforts and faith because of something you did or didn’t do. The point isn’t to get legalistic in loving God and others. That in and of itself contradicts God’s love. The way we can know if we’re giving, serving, sacrificing, and living faithfully with God’s love is to ask Him. Seek to know Him authentically, and His love will come with the intimacy.

If you are serving because God is guiding you to use the gifts He’s given you as well as providing you with the opportunity, and you respond in obedience, you will live out loud with His love as you stay in a close relationship with Him. His service and love cannot be separated. It’s just when we distort either His service or love that we can miss something. Our assumptions about serving God or what His love is and what it looks like to live it out loud is what gets us into trouble. We don’t get to define what is filled with God’s love. God does.

The same is true in faith, giving, sacrifice, and anything else that has to do with living out loud for God. They cannot be separated from His love. Our assumptions aren’t what determines what each looks like. God defines each.

It’s as if God’s love has the mathematical worth. Without it, regardless of what you add, the sum will be zero. With it, numbers exponentially multiply.

Dear God, I don’t want to make any effort to give, serve, or sacrifice outside of Your will. I know everything within Your will includes love—not love as I define it but love as You command. You provide the power, strength, and boldness along with Your love. You give me the opportunity to love and equip me with everything necessary to pour love onto others. I praise You for challenging me to not live as I think You want me to live but only as You say I must live to remain in a thriving relationship with You. I praise You for who You are and how You provide and care for me as well as those throughout Your kingdom.

To Love or To Gong

pureloveblogIf I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Without love, life is noisy. It’s difficult to bear life without love. Life without love is annoying. Have you ever heard that one voice that you can hardly bear? Whether it’s shrill, difficult to understand, nonsensical, or offensive, it’s tiresome. Even if you try to listen, your patience runs thin quickly, and you walk away. Who wants to listen to something that just sounds like noise?

That’s what our lives are like without love: noisy. And I think many Christians live noisy lives. Some by choice, others by ignorance, some nearly constantly, others every now and then. When we choose to do life without love, it just doesn’t make sense. We can claim to be a follower of Christ, but if we don’t live out His love, all the claims we make about God and our relationship with Him are just noise. We don’t make sense, because we’re not speaking in the language of God.

It’s as if I was traveling to South Africa and someone asked where I was from. “USA,” I’d say. They’d assume I speak English, and they would likely start speaking English to me if possible, but what if I responded in a heavy German dialect? What if I threw in an English word every now and then so they’d think, “Well, perhaps I’m just misunderstanding all the other words. Maybe everything she’s saying is actually English, and the problem is the way I’m hearing it, not the way she’s saying it.” As I see the person isn’t really understanding what’s I’m saying, I get louder and a bit frustrated. My hands start moving quickly, and my speech quickens. My face reddens in irritation.

And all the time, I know I can speak English.

That’s what Christians do when they say they live a Christian life but they don’t live—or speak—God’s love. The other person gets confused and frustrated, and the Christian speaking tries to speak louder and faster to communicate and get the point across.

Unless we speak the language of God, we will not authentically represent Him. I’m not saying we can’t make any errors along the way. We’ll all miscommunicate sometimes as we’re sharing God’s love. He can still use what we’re offering, and He will when we offer it with humility. But humbly offering and boldly ignoring are two different things.

We have a choice: to love with God’s love or to make noise that is annoying. Noisy gongs and clanging cymbals aren’t easy to ignore, but people will try to escape them. We certainly can’t communicate well when sounding like them. And the thing is, we don’t have to try to sound like them. It’s not a sound we make because we’re doing something; it’s a sound we make because we’re not doing something. Sound by omission. Noise by omission. Leave God’s love out of your life, and noisy gongs and clanging cymbals are the result.

 

Dear God, I want to be intentional in the sound of my life. I want to honor You and point people to You in all that I do. I know that in order to reflect You, I must always love You and love others. Infuse my life with Your bold, unending love. I praise You and thank You.