The Highest Goal
Day 1. Last week, we focused on the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul wrote that even the best spiritual gifts, when exercised apart from love, are meaningless. He writes: “I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” (v1) “I would be nothing,” (v2) and “I would have gained nothing” (v3). Read verses 4-5. How can you test yourself to see if you are motivated by love? Are you patient with others? Are you kind with those you disagree with? Are you jealous? Boastful? Proud? Rude? Is it all about you getting your way? Is it more important to you to be right than to be loving? Consider your motivations. Acting in love desires to build up one another, not tear them down. It desires harmony, not dissention. Think about your last week. If you had any disagreements, even on social media, how would you characterize your response? Did you see patience and kindness in your attitude? Take note of those interactions and pray specifically, “Holy Spirit, what needs to change in me for me to give more loving responses in future opportunities today and this week?”
Day 2. On Sunday, Cory mentioned the Greek word for patience is “makrothymeo.” This word means both patience and understanding along with a refusal to retaliate. See how James 1:19 correlates. Think about that for a moment - slow to anger and quick to understand. We are living in a world of extremes, a world of us vs. them, a world where we are quick to excuse our own flaws while demonizing those we disagree with. What would happen if I turned the tables and sought to understand rather than to be understood? What if I snuffed the short fuse and took time to listen? Consider a person in your life with whom you have the most differences.
Day 3. Read Matthew 7:1-5 We tend to judge other people by their actions, and to judge ourselves by our intentions. Reread that sentence. Ouch! Not one of us is perfect, and we will often look to the failure in others in order to justify our own sinfulness, but Jesus says, “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” So, be patient with others as you would have them be patient with you. Show grace to others as you expect them to show grace to you. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (Rom. 3:23) As you go about your week, pay attention to the things that trigger you. Is it a specific person (co-worker, sibling, boss, employee, spouse, neighbor) or around a recurring topic? What step can I take to insert a buffer before I respond or react? Would that help me to take a step in becoming the person I hope to become?
Day 4. Read John 13:34-35. Would anyone know your faith by observation? Consider yesterday or today. You may be familiar with the Brennan Manning Quote, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.” Love is the basic building block of our faith because God is love. Jesus invites us to imitate him in love because He first loved us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Rom 5:8). We can only give what we have received. How has God shown love to you? Where are you overwhelmed with gratitude because of what God has done in your life? Out of the fullness of that love, we show love to others.
Day 5. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 again. Is this the kind of Jesus that people see in you? Does your family see love, patience, kindness? Or do they see judgement and condemnation more often? Are you holding grudges or showing forgiveness and mercy? If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Bob Goff’s book “Everybody Always” from the Next Steps Center ($10) and read through chapter 6. In this chapter, he gives an example of how to love a difficult person. When you encounter that person who hard to love, just give them 30 seconds of kindness. In that 30 seconds, pray for the Spirit to give you the grace you need to love them. Then do it again. Eventually, those brief times will add up as the Holy Spirit helps you. You may find yourself more routinely seeking the Holy Spirit and finding kindness. In doing so, you will be stepping into Paul’s invitation of patient love.