LISTEN TO: King and Country, "The Proof of Your Love" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MgVf8fzEiY
"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As we prepare for Palm Sunday and our journey into Holy Week, we turn once more to Paul's inspired passage on love. Paul breaks down for us what Love does, just as Jesus models for us in his actions and teachings how love acts and reacts in the world. Today we meditate on love's power to bear, believe, hope and endure all things.
Francis of Assisi, perhaps one of the most beloved figures in Christiandom, was born into a wealthy family. He renounced it all for Christ and service in His Name. Like us, Francis had his struggles. It is said that Francis of Assisi was terrified of leprosy. And one day, on the narrow path that he was traveling, he saw a leper. Instinctively he recoiled from the contamination of that loathsome disease. People feared leprosy, it's affects on the body, and believed it manifested as a result of sin. Francis was ashamed of reactions. He then ran and cast his arms about the sufferer’s neck and kissed him and passed on. A moment later he looked back, and there was no one there, only the empty road in the hot sunlight. All his days thereafter he was sure it was no leper, but Christ Himself whom he had met.” He later reflected:
, “God allowed me to begin my repentance in this way: when I lived in sin, seeing lepers was a very bitter experience for me. God himself guided me into their midst and among them I performed acts of charity. What appeared bitter to me became sweetness of the soul and body.”
What Francis learned is the powerful confession of love by Apostle Paul: Love bears all things. It believes all things. It hopes all things It endures all things. This is Love 505, advanced practice,a doctoral level seminar, that we have been advanced to -- ready or not. At first glance we may protest: Isn't it naive of us to believe all things? Hope all things? Isn't it unwise to bear all things and endure all things -- particularly if it puts us in danger? There are no cookie cutter answers. Without a doubt Love, agape love, divine love, pushes the envelope.
Paul is telling us -- without apologizes -- Love bears. This word is related to the word for roof. Love covers, offers protection against hostile elements. Love stands up for other people, especially people being oppressed, bullied and denied their rights. In it's role as protector, love doesn't spread gossip, complaints, bad news. Love cares about another's reputation, even if someone who has hurt or lied. Love seeks to see all people returned to the fold of Christ, and with the grace of Jesus bears up all this weight.
Love believes in us -- especially when we lost faith and no longer believe in ourselves and our faith. Love starts with the premise that everyone is made in image of God and is a child of God. So even when we aren't producing results, when all we see are sins after sins, mistakes after mistakes, Love refuses to give up -- although we may give up. Ever hear the expression, "if you can't believe, believe then that I believe." That's Jesus, saying to us, he believes, and never will stop believing in us.
Love hopes. Many of us have given up on hope. We can't see change possible. The facts are stacked against us. Hope doesn't mean we ignore the facts, or turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, Hope means we keep taking that next step. Hope gets up with it falls. Hope is not a feeling. It is a commitment to action, a commitment to follow Jesus, and trust his words, "all things work together for good, for those who love God and work together for his purpose. Romans 8:28"
Love Endures. Enduring takes the "bearing" one step further. This is a military term that commands us to hold the fort at all cost, whatever it takes. Trained soldiers keep fighting until the end, even when all is lost. So Love holds fast to those it loves. Love doesn't stop, no matter how many defeats have been thrown it's way. Love doesn't flee challenging situations. Like Francis learned, by remaining steadfast in a difficult situation, by embracing lepers, bitterness for him was turned into sweetness. He didn't run away. The question that we are asked to consider is, "who or what represents leprosy to us, today?" Whom or what have we been avoiding loving? Are we running away from something or someone?
All these powerful traits of love come together seamlessly in Jesus. As we enter Holy Week, let us closely observe and mediate on his actions on the way to the cross. Jesus perfectly bears, believes, hopes and endures. He is true Love, our model for life in the Kingdom of God.
Let us learn from the Master as we enter the Holy Week story, and perfect our learning in Love 505.
PRAY: "Lord, make your actions our own, turn our bitterness to sweetness, as we learn to confront our obstacles to love, and begin to love more as you do."