Sunday, January 3, 2010

Love: Dying to "our own"

"Love...does not insist on its own way" - 1 Corinthians 13:5

Now here is a hard lesson set before us.

Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness: Seeketh not its own, does not inordinately desire nor seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Indeed self-love, in some degree, is natural to all men, enters into their very constitution. And a reasonable love of self is by our Saviour made the measure of our love to others, that charity which is here described, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The apostle does not mean that charity destroys all regard to self; he does not mean that the charitable man should never challenge what is his own, but utterly neglect himself and all his interests. Charity must then root up that principle which is wrought into our nature. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or with the neglect of others. It often neglects its own for the sake of others; prefers their welfare, and satisfaction, and advantage, to its own; and it ever prefers the weal of the public, of the community, whether civil or ecclesiastical, to its private advantage. It would not advance, nor aggrandize, nor enrich, nor gratify itself, at the cost and damage of the public.
- Matthew Henry

Take notice that he says such love "is an utter enemy to selfishness." It detests the slightest sign of it in the inward places of the soul. Oh, but how often do we live our lives allowing this disease of selfishness to spread in our souls, which are vessels meant to house God's glory? We, in our proud ignorance, think we know what loves means and dare to presume that we know how to live it out. We inwardly demand and covet those things and people that meet our desires. We dress up our fleshly pursuits with lofty words and actions so as to make them appear they come from Love itself. We even fool ourselves into thinking we are basking in Love's glory, that we have obtained its blessing. But how very, very little we know! Love that is true comes from having first been brought low, humbled, and stripped of self that seeks its way above obedience to Lord and the good of others, the "I" and "me" and "myself" that is in us all.

"Take the key phrase in verse 5: "Love does not seek its own." I don't think this means that it is wrong to want to be happy. Because in verse 3 Paul argues that if you don't love, it profits you nothing. So it's not wrong to want the right kind of profit. What he's saying is that love does not seek its own personal, private preference without reference to what may be good for other people. Love seeks its joy and its profit in the good of others, not just in private gratification.
When Paul says, "Love seeks not its own," he is not saying that you shouldn't stand up for your own convictions—he died for his convictions. He is saying that you must be sure that the strength of your conviction is in proportion to the conviction being God's not just yours. To the degree that your preference is yours and not compellingly found in God's Word, to that degree should you be slow to seek it, and slow to get angry when others don't share it. "Love seeks not its own." It seeks the good of the many, not just the comfort of self.
So if we are going to love, we are going to have to die to "our own." Love seeks not its own. What does it do? It dies to its own. "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it remains alone, but if it dies [to its own] it bears much fruit.""
- John Piper

Any other love than that is merely a fake and a counterfeit.

Again, I shall leave the last word to Amy Carmichael, who reminds us what love does not do and what it does not look like.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice; if I give any room to my private likes and dislikes, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I put my own happiness before the well-being of the work entrusted to me; if, though I have this ministry and have received much mercy, I faint, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If there be any reserve in my giving to Him who so loved that He gave His Dearest for me; if there be a secret “but” in my prayer, “anything but that, Lord,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I become entangled in any “inordinate affection”; if things or places or people hold me back from obedience to my Lord, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Matthew Henry Commentary on 1 Cor 13

Dying as a Means of Loving, Part 2 - John Piper sermon
If - Amy Carmichael