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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Love: Selflessness


"Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude." - 1 Cor 13:4-5

This is a heavy verse. There's quite a lot to chew and reflect on in it. One of the things that leaves me in awe of the Love described to us in 1 Cor. 13 is that it is inexhaustible, not only in its description, but in its real-life application. Such Love searches our hearts and minds - a depth that we cannot reach (being unable to save and purify ourselves) - and sets us into a Higher Love - a fullness that we can never use up and are always growing deeper into (the wonder of having an Eternal God).
Matthew Henry and John Piper do well to point out the evils of the human heart (and what we often try to pass around as "love" in our lives) in contrast to the selfless Love of Christ.

III. Charity suppresses envy: It envieth not; it is not grieved at the good of others; neither at their gifts nor at their good qualities, their honours not their estates. If we love our neighbour we shall be so far from envying his welfare, or being displeased with it, that we shall share in it and rejoice at it. His bliss and sanctification will be an addition to ours, instead of impairing or lessening it. This is the proper effect of kindness and benevolence: envy is the effect of ill-will. The prosperity of those to whom we wish well can never grieve us; and the mind which is bent on doing good to all can never with ill to any.

IV. Charity subdues pride and vain-glory; It vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, is not bloated with self-conceit, does not swell upon its acquisitions, nor arrogate to itself that honour, or power, or respect, which does not belong to it. It is not insolent, apt to despise others, or trample on them, or treat them with contempt and scorn. Those who are animated with a principle of true brotherly love will in honour prefer one another, Rom. xii. 10. They will do nothing out of a spirit of contention or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind will esteem others better than themselves, Phil. ii. 3. True love will give us an esteem of our brethren, and raise our value for them; and this will limit our esteem of ourselves, and prevent the tumours of self-conceit and arrogance. These ill qualities can never grow out of tender affection for the brethren, nor a diffusive benevolence. The word rendered in our translation vaunteth itself bears other significations; nor is the proper meaning, as I can find, settled; but in every sense and meaning true charity stands in opposition to it. The Syriac renders it, non tumultuatur--does not raise tumults and disturbances. Charity calms the angry passions, instead of raising them. Others render it, Non perperàm et perversè agit--It does not act insidiously with any, seek to ensnare them, nor tease them with needless importunities and addresses. It is not forward, nor stubborn and untractable, nor apt to be cross and contradictory. Some understand it of dissembling and flattery, when a fair face is put on, and fine words are said, without any regard to truth, or intention of good. Charity abhors such falsehood and flattery. Nothing is commonly more pernicious, nor more apt to cross the purposes of true love and good will.

V. Charity is careful not to pass the bounds of decency; ouk aschemonei--it behaveth not unseemly; it does nothing indecorous, nothing that in the common account of men is base or vile. It does nothing out of place or time; but behaves towards all men as becomes their rank and ours, with reverence and respect to superiors, with kindness and condescension to inferiors, with courtesy and good-will towards all men. It is not for breaking order, confounding ranks bringing all men on a level; but for keeping up the distinction God has made between men, and acting decently in its own station, and minding its own business, without taking upon it to mend, or censure, or despise, the conduct of others. Charity will do nothing that misbecomes it.
- Matthew Henry

"...we have developed strategies for minimizing our failures and maximizing our successes. We tend to draw attention to the one and cover over the other. There are crude ways of doing this like overt bragging and boasting and developing a certain cocky swagger or talking with a kind of devil-may-care conceit or an in-your-face kind of arrogance.

In fact, in America we have turned the vice of bragging into a virtue of entertainment.

But there are also more subtle, refined, acceptable ways of expressing our pride—like bringing the conversation back again and again to ourselves and what we've done, or even more subtly by constantly talking about our woundedness or our sadness, and about how badly things have gone for us. Self-pity and boasting are both forms of pride: one is pride in the heart of the weak, and the other is pride in the heart of the strong.

Now Paul says, "Love does not brag and is not arrogant." That is, it does not speak much about itself and is not puffed up with its achievements or too concerned about its hurts.
Love is other-directed, not self-consumed.
Which means that a massive craving in our hearts must die, if we are going to love. We're not puffed up because we decide to be. We are puffed up by fallen sinful human nature. This comes from deep within who we are as corrupt human beings. If love is humble and other-directed, love is death.
The glory-loving, self-exalting, attention-seeking, whining, pouting, self-pitying me has to die.


This is why Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die it remains alone"—alone in its self-absorbed, self-asserting, self-enhancing prison—"but if it dies, it bears much fruit"—the fruit of love and all the people that will see Christ in that love."
- John Piper

I will leave the last words to Amy Carmichael....

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, when I am able to discover something which has baffled others, I forget Him who revealeth the deep and secret things, and knoweth what is in the darkness and showeth it to us; if I forget that it was He who granted that ray of light to His most unworthy servant, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Oh Father, save us from empty, self-filled loving. Fill us with Your Divine Love that rises above and beyond us.

Sources:
Matthew Henry's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13

Dying as a Means of Loving, Part 2 - John Piper

If - Amy Carmichael

1 comments:

Vanessa said...

Some beautiful thoughts about selflessness! This gives us much to ponder. -Vanessa