This One Thing Will Kill A Relationship

On the heels of part 3 about envy, the next thing that unravels love is boasting. In fact, these two work hand in hand, but not in a loving way. While one person starts boasting, the other starts envying. Then the envying one will come up with some boast to boost their self-image, inciting envy from others.

It’s a vicious cycle.

It derives its power from the “grass is always greener” principle. Your neighbor has the perfect house, perfect yard, perfect kids, perfect job … And your neighbor projects that image, too. Before we get too far down that path, we project images, as well. We’re just not as conscious of it.

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Someone says, “How are you doing?” or “How was your weekend?” and we’re most likely to say, “Great! I took in a movie, we went out to eat, we hit the arcades …”

If you want to see some funny, awkward reactions, tell people, “Not too good, actually.”

Some will be concerned, but then get away from you as quickly as they can.

My wife and I joke about what the real vacation photos would look like if people posted them on social media. You know, the pictures capturing all the fights, the snippy words when you turn down the wrong road, or one of the kids spills something in the back of the van. Instead, we see the smiling faces next to Mickey Mouse, the happy family on the beach, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with commemorating a trip with nice photos.

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The problem is when we want people to think we didn’t have all the crazy times when the cameras weren’t rolling. The fact is, everyone has those crazy times. We’re all human. We all get selfish and fight. We suffer from envy, unkindness and self-centeredness.

In other words, we don’t glow with love 100% of the time. And we make it worse by boasting as if we live the charmed life.

Boasting also shows up in our thanksgiving. “I’m thankful I’m not like that publican over there! I’m not like those sinners in that part of town!”

The Spirit might be prompting us at those times, “About that….”

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD. Ps.10:3

The cold, hard truth is that none of us are righteous. None of us obey with a pure heart. And we can’t love with pure motives and show the unselfish kindness and humility until we come to terms (on a daily, even hourly basis) with our own sinfulness and shame.

I know, that’s a bad word: Shame. But, properly placed, it’s wonderful. We should recognize that we don’t deserve any good thing we have. We’re open rebels against God.

What do we all think should happen to ISIS terrorists? Should we give them nice homes in the suburbs and cozy jobs? Actually, there are people who think that’s the solution, but I digress.

No, we’d want those terrorists to pay dearly for their crimes. Justice demands that they pay!

How much worse with us who were born into open rebellion against God. Then, we made–and continue to make–choices to follow that rebellion.

We do this by focusing on ourselves and our appetites. We do this by ignoring God’s laws for proper living. We indulge in the pleasures the world says are okay, then get upset when we get penalized for our lying, lust and gluttony. We make deals with the prince of this world, then run to God when we’re bound in chains and miserable. Only we run to got with an accusatory finger pointed up. That’s right, we blame God for the horrors in this world, even though the horrors are a natural result of our sinfulness.

The fact is, we deserve every mistreatment, every sad outcome, every ‘unlucky’ turn of events that comes our way. We don’t deserve all the good things that happen.

In this world, the wicked appear to prosper. This is due to the common grace of God. They have great gain. They trample the poor and build empires for themselves. They scoff at God in the way they live, as if to tell everyone that there is no God and they are living proof. (see Psalm 10 and 37).

Apart from Christ, we can be included in the descriptions of the evil people. If you believe that God had given you a raw deal, you’re believing the words of Satan over the words of God.

A proper view of our own actual shame is the best and only antidote to boasting. And once we no longer operate on the assumption that “we’re basically good” we begin to be useful for God to love others through us.

In fact, I believe that God’s love is shown through His servants without them even being aware of it. ”Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (Matt. 25:37,38).

When God’s love pours through us, we’re not even aware of it, so we aren’t going to be boasting about it.

We certainly won’t be going about with a spirit of contention and vainglory (as Matthew Henry points out in his commentary). Rather, we’ll be of a lowly mind, esteeming others as better than ourselves (Php 2:3).

The opposite attitude of being a “know it all” or questioning everyone on any point, always having to be the most interesting person in the room …

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Well, that will actually kill your relationships. And worse, it continues your rebellion against God, which keeps you under His (Just) wrath.

Instead, we need to be honest with ourselves first. We need to hold every thought captive to ensure we’re not acting for our own glory, but for God’s. We need to remain humble, not bringing attention to how humble we are (that’s only funny because it’s too often true).

Then we’ll be useful for God’s loving purpose in this world.

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What is ‘Real Love?” Part 2

The Apostle Paul gives us benchmarks for what define true love in 1 Corinthians 13. As I noted in part 1, none of us can claim to show perfect love all the time. A big reason for this is that in our fallen natures we are rebels against God, who is love. The more we resemble the Lord, the more we will show true love (which is what Paul is getting at with the Corinthians).

The first characteristic was patience, or long-suffering. The next is kindness. We have to be careful with these because the Bible isn’t written so we can tell when everyone else is failing. It’s written to reveal our own hearts to ourselves so that we can repent and follow the Lord, reflecting His glory more perfectly.

Here’s what Matthew Henry says about this trait:

It is kindchrēsteuetai. It is benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.

Benign, bountiful, courteous and obliging. That paints a picture, but I like the part about seizing on opportunities to do good, searching for them, in fact.

Do we look for ways we can help those around us? Do we anticipate someone’s feelings or needs and then try to meet them to the best of our ability?

Or, are we mostly focused on what interests us and everyone else needs to get with that program?

Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus tells of a man who was overcome by thieves and ravaged, left for dead. That’s you and me at various points in our lives. We are ravaged by the temptations of this world, we’re beaten by the desires of our flesh, we’re left alone to die. The Pharisees and the people who have human religion and are full of pride will walk by, pretending not to see us. We, will walk by, pretending not to see our neighbor, friend or spouse. That’s their issue, and they need to work it out!

But, the heart of love looks with compassion on the person who–some might say–got themselves into that mess. Love is kind and will look to do good for people.

This shows up in little things. We teach our kids that if they see a mess in the kitchen, don’t just walk by–help clean it up. Take out the trash, keep the bathrooms looking nice. But this is easier taught than put in practice. It’s not in the human nature (mostly) to look for something good to do that doesn’t impact our own immediate needs. After all, someone else made the mess, and why should it be me to clean it up?

Love is kind. It thinks of the good it can do, then does it at great cost. God could have scrapped the whole creation, sending us all to Hell. And it would have been just to do so. But since God is love, He made a way that we can be given freedom from the sentence of death that is justly ours. He did the most good, the most benign thing, the most compassionate thing, and actually took the penalty for our sin.

Shouldn’t we be able to show such kindness to those around us who may be equally as wicked as we were toward God? Perhaps we should imitate God more in our daily life and let the kindness of His love work through us.

Real Love – How To Know It When You See It

What Is Love?

In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives a description of love. This is often a go-to verse for a wedding ceremony. But, with divorce topping between 40-50%, and subsequent marriages for divorcees being higher, it’s safe to say that ‘love’ is something we really need to understand.

Hint: Paul doesn’t say that it’s an emotion that’s here to-day and gone tomorrow. That was Tony Asher and Brian Wilson on Pet Sounds, for those trivia buffs out there.

So, what is love? I thought I’d do a series on this, taking each of the 11 signposts noted by Paul. The purpose is for anyone who reads this to say, “does that describe me?” and then, “how can this be more true of me?”

The first marker for Love is this: Love is patient!

Another translation has ‘love’ as ‘charity,’ and ‘patient’ as ‘long-suffering.’ Here’s what Matthew Henry notes in his commentary:

It is long sufferingmakrothumei. It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

All I can say is that I’m guilty of the opposite. I have patience … to a point! I endure evil … but have my limit! If provoked, I feel resentment, indignation and start cherishing thoughts of revenge. You know, to help God think of ways to repay those dastardly people who treated me unfairly.

Guess what? That’s not love! Ouch!

I dare say, nobody does this. In fact, even our non-Christian culture admits that society today is one of hyper-sensitive offence. From public bathroom selection to wedding cakes and someone’s personal faith in Jesus, our culture seems to be a bright, bulging wound. Use the wrong word on Social Media and you’ll be “flamed.”

We’ve got a problem in our world with bullying, both cyber and the garden-variety. That activity shows the depths of the lack of love in our world. On the other side, we’ve got people who are not long-suffering of the pain inflicted by the bullies.

My mom used to always say to me and my siblings, “It takes two to fight!” And that’s true. Maybe one person instigates the conflict, but the victim keeps it going.

In the ’60s there was an anti-war slogan, “What if they had a war but nobody came?” Being analytical, I’d say who’s the “they?” But the point is that someone may do something hurtful and the victim can decide to … pay that price for the bully.

There’s Always A Cost

Love costs us. If there is no cost, it’s worthless. Those roses a husband buys his wife cost money. If he opts to collect wild flowers, it’s a nice gesture, but won’t be as amazing as when he parts with his money for something more special.

That’s the easy part, though. Buying flowers or taking your spouse out for dinner is something that is fun for you, too!

How about returning goodness for meanness? That’s not as fun. No fist-bumps for being kind to a bully. That type of behavior costs us more than overpriced roses.

A bully owes the victim an apology. He needs to acknowledge the wrong he’s done and admit it was wrong. He needs to make amends with good behavior, showing that he’s repented from his bullying ways.

But that’s not likely to happen. It certainly won’t happen when we return the favor, an eye for an eye.

Love is patient. It endures the mistreatment of people and returns good for evil. It is patient when that good return is never admitted or acknowledged.

We Don’t Have To Look For Mean People

While patience is the hallmark of love, it doesn’t mean we go looking for bullies to hurt us. There will be enough of them finding us in life. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, not to go find them again so they could hit us over and over. He taught us to go the extra mile when compelled by someone (referring to a law that required Israelites to carry baggage for a Roman official if told to do so. Under the law they had to go one mile. Jesus taught that they should go two. So, more than the law required). But Jesus didn’t teach that we should go finding people to have them compel us in such a way.

These circumstances will happen naturally. We’ll have people at work that say unkind things, or stab us in the back. We’ll have church leaders abuse their position and inflict pain. We’ll have family members treat us with contempt and envy. The commuter on the freeway will cut us off, honking and using the “swear finger.”

We don’t have to go looking for it. But true love is found in the patience that we have for all of those situations.

We Don’t Have It In Us

Here’s the kicker: We don’t have real love in us. God is love. Many will try to indict God by saying, “If God exists, why does He let all the horrors go on in the world?” Well, God is patient. God rains good things on the righteous and the unrighteous. God’s goodness is meant to bring people to repentance.

Even though it doesn’t seem to bring people to repentance (rather, it seems to make them think they can get away with whatever they do) it will stand as a statement against them. When the Judgment comes, what will people say when God points out all their wickedness and their disregard for His mercy?

I believe we cannot show this patient love until we have accepted God’s love and Lordship. I believe it is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This isn’t to say that every Christian will demonstrate this patience perfectly. But, increasingly as they allow the Holy Spirit to fill them.

Do you want to know if you have the Holy Spirit? Paul was telling the Corinthians that it isn’t in the amazing signs and wonders like prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. It’s in how we love.

Does your love show an increasing amount of patience and long-suffering?