What is Greater than Love? #256 + A Great Story About the Love of a Father!
Hello friends and welcome into a terrific Tuesday. Okay, maybe a tepid Tuesday. A could be worse Tuesday? I dunno. Some things that get a lot of hype are just plain overrated. Yeezy shoes: insanely and strangely overrated. The Kardashian family – way overrated. Snapchat: you bet it’s overrated – one of the worst interface’s ever conceived. Gender reveal parties that include explosive devices that trigger forest fires – one of the most overrated things ever. Back in the day, we found out if we were having a boy or girl, and maybe told our parents, or maybe mentioned it on Myspace. Back in our parent’s day, the gender-reveal was surprisingly close to the baby-reveal. In fact, they usually happened at the same exact time. Duckface selfies, shows where the hosts hollar at each other over a different topic each time and Tik-Tok hand dances? All overrated. Michael Jordan, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Chick-Fil-A, Popeye’s chicken sandwiches and Oreo O’s cereal? All properly rated as a 10/10. 1st Corinthians 13 is a pretty hyped Bible chapter. Maybe the most hyped chapter in the entire Bible – even though it is not specifically referring to romantic or marital love, it is frequently read at weddings, and is one of the most well-known Bible chapters in the western world.
Is it overrated? Not even close – as well known as 1 Corinthians 13 is, it is probably UNDER-Rated. The deepest of theological truths combined with poetry worthy of Wordsworth – 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Let’s read it together now, and then discuss it.
Apologies to our church family at Valley Baptist in Salinas, but I do want to share with you a fantastic story that some of them (and some of you podcast listeners) already heard on Sunday…don’t despair, though – I have some new things to share too!
If you want to understand what love is, and how loves looks, and what sort of behavior love produces, please read and reread 1 Corinthians 13. If you love somebody – and you must love all, if you are a follower of Christ – then you MUST treat them in accord with the descriptions of love in this chapter. Love – and how we treat people – is not based on whether or not we are feeling pleasantly disposed towards that person or not, at the moment. Love IS patient, whether we WANT to be patient or not. Love IS Kind, whether the person in question deserves our kindness or not. Love is NOT irritable, even if those around us are irritating. Love does NOT quit, even when we want to. LOVE NEVER FAILS.
Eusebius, writing in the 200s, tells this story about John the disciple, the one who leaned on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper (communion next week) and who wrote this:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
When John was an older man, he travelled from Ephesus to another church to appoint leaders in that church. Once the main leader was appointed, John charged him with the adoptive care – of a young orphan that John had met in the city, charging him to raise the boy to manhood and disciple him with the words of Jesus.
This newly appointed leader did just that, for quite some time, baptizing the boy, taking great care of him, loving him and such. Unfortunately, the young guy fell into the wrong crowd, and ultimately became a petty criminal, and then a more hardened criminal, and then a violent robber-captain.
IN Eusebius’ OWN WORDS:
It was at this time that John returned to this city, even older, and asked about the boy to the church leader, who declared, ‘He is dead.”How and what kind of death?”He is dead to God,’he said; ‘for he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.’ 14. But the Apostle tore his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said,… let a horse be brought me, and let someone show me the way.’He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers’ outpost. 15. He, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out, ‘For this did I come; lead me to your captain.’ 16. The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee. 17. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out, ‘Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure death from you as the Lord suffered death for us. For you, I will give up my life. Stop, believe; Christ has sent me.’ 18. And he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his weapons, and then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears. 19. But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Savior, pleaded with him, fell upon his knees, embraced him, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various teachings, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.”
Love is the greatest, says Paul, and it also forms the basis for the first and second greatest commands in the entire Bible, according to Jesus. In fact, Jesus says that ALL of the Law and prophets hang on loving God and loving each other. I take from His teaching that love must be central to everything we do.
Love must inform our actions when we are in a debate or disagreement with somebody, so says John ‘Amazing Grace’ Newton in a letter to a minister friend of his, who was about to confront somebody teaching false things:
As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.
If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.
Good stuff from Newton, as always. I want to close with a story from a writer named Greg Lucas, who does not write nearly enough, though he is fantastic. In this story about a violent fight, you will learn much about love, and may it drive you to love others with the kind of love that God loves you with and the kind of love that Paul calls us to in 1 Corinthians 13:
I got into a fistfight last week.
Well, I suppose you could call it a fistfight. I got hit about 10-12 times without landing a single punch myself. It’s been a while since I have been in a fight. As a police officer, I probably get into more fights than the average middle-aged man. But at 46, my reflexes are not what they used to be—so I got a little beat up.
It all started when I attempted to make a man do something I thought he should do. I grabbed his shirtsleeve and directed him in the direction I wanted him to go. I’m usually pretty good at directing people. Apparently he was not having the best day and this was not the direction he wanted to go, so he responded by taking a swing at me.
I managed to duck the first blow and easily redirect his momentum; moving him through the open door of my pickup truck where he landed square on his back in the front seat. With his back to the seat, he reached for anything he could throw in my direction to keep me away from him, which happened to be a set of car keys, a water bottle and an ESV Bible.
The keys missed my head by a couple of inches and I managed to dodge the water bottle, but the bible hit me right in the chest—resulting in an out of context (yet unforgettable) illustration of Hebrews 4:12. “12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
As he searched the cab of my truck for something else to launch at me, I took advantage of the distraction and rushed forward through the doorway. He caught me with an up-kick to my midsection but I managed to grab both his legs and pin them to the dash.
My tunnel-vision-focus on his legs left his hands unsecure and I was met with five or six quick strikes to the back of my head with his fist, followed by several scratches to my scalp and face from his fingernails.
Believe it or not, my mind instinctively went back to a basic rule from my initial police training, “Watch the hands! Hands kill. If you control the hands, you control the fight.”
I abandoned his legs and latched on to his wrists, pushing his fists into his chest while simultaneously wrapping my leg around his ankles to control his feet. His explosive strength and speed humbled my aging muscles and slower reflexes, but at least I was now in control of the situation—or so I thought.
About the time I was catching my breath and making a new game plan, I felt a sharp, vice-like lock on my forearm and looked up to see the man clenching his teeth down on my jacket sleeve. My jacket was thick enough to keep the bite from penetrating skin, but the initial shock of the pain made me instinctively react.
Still holding his wrists, I broke away from the bite and lodged my elbow and forearm under his chin forcing his head back, his mouth closed, and averting any possible head butting or biting retaliation. The only offense he had left was to spit in my direction, which he did several times between primal screams of violent anger. I took the spit. It was better than the alternative.
Turning my face to avoid most of the projectile spray, I just happened to glance to the back seat of the truck where I saw my wife, daughter and teenage son. The look on their faces made me realize how serious this incident had become. I needed to end this fight.
With one last burst of adrenaline-fueled energy, I lifted the man to his feet and out of the seat. Still holding his wrists I swept his legs with my left foot and took him to the ground in the soft snow beside the door of the truck. The powder absorbed most of the impact allowing me to move to a superior position.
As I pinned his arms to the ground with my hands, I knew by the look on his face the fight was almost over. He continued to struggle and spit, but he was quickly running out of gas. I held him there in the snow till the ice absorbed his energy and cooled his rage.
“Are you finished?” I muttered, nearly out of breath. “I’m not letting you go.”
He struggled one last time and then nodded his head in surrender. I slowly, but cautiously, helped him to his feet and dusted the snow from his back. This fight was over. I loaded him into the truck and continued on to our destination.
The man I was fighting is not some deranged criminal; he is my son. Autistic and non-verbal, he is a two-year-old in a twenty-year-old body. Like most two-year-olds, he throws fits from time to time. Unlike most two-year-olds, he can do a lot of damage. He can hurt my wife and seriously hurt my daughter, and he can almost whip me. Almost.
It all began as we were headed out the door going to a Super Bowl party. He wanted to take his IPad. I said, “No” and he transformed into the Incredible Hulk.
Sitting in the truck with a protective arm around my son, I began to think how the Lord could possibly be in this. I thought of big words like “sanctification” and “sovereignty”, even “Imago Dei” and “Fearfully and wonderfully made”. These are bold and profound words I admittedly preach louder when the times are less painful.
Then, as the adrenaline dump sapped all of my remaining strength, a glaring image flashed through my head of a man struggling to get away. He cursed his family and His Lord. He fought against love and kicked against the goads. He spit in the face of the One who loved him most. But despite the rebellion and violence, even through the worst of sin and insurrection, his Father would not let him go—holding Him tightly till all the defiant energy was spent.
I am that man.
“I will not let you go.” I remember those words of tough love and bloody redemption very well, spoken by the Father of my salvation and echoed by the wife of my youth. I am eternally grateful for their tenacious gospel grip.
Jake finally settled down and apologized with tears, hugs and kisses. I wonder how he can vacillate so quickly between innocent bliss and animalistic violence. I wonder how much longer my strength will hold out. But no matter how he acts, he will always be my son. I will fight his rebellion with all my strength and all my love, and I will never let go—because I was never let go.
Written by Greg Lucas. Source: http://sheepdogger.blogspot.com/2013/02/i-will-not-let-you-go.html
Check out his book: https://www.amazon.com/Wrestling-Angel-Story-Disability-Lessons/dp/1453818774/