The Apostle Paul makes a seemingly simple statement towards the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church. Four words. “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:4)
It begins to get complicated very quickly when we understand the implication. That second word, ‘everything’, is where it all gets a bit messy. He doesn’t say ‘some things’, ‘most things’ or ‘as many things as you are able’. He says, “Do EVERYTHING in love”. The Message version puts it this way, “love without stopping.”
Surely not. Is that even possible? Even when that guy… ? Yep. What about if… ? Uh-huh. Is there a disclaimer on this? No.
A few chapters back, Paul asserts that if we don’t do everything in love our efforts are wasted and we gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Which means, no matter what I say, what I believe or what I do it counts for nothing if it’s not done in love.
Love gives meaning and form. With love everything else matters. Without love nothing else matters.
How can we love without stopping? Where do we even begin?
Firstly, as per my previous post, we need to understand the order of things.
Secondly, we need to put it into practice.
For me, it’s about constantly placing Jesus first and reminding myself of His primacy in my life. Then it’s about asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me.
To help me do that, I wrote a psalm. I read it to myself most days (generally at the beginning of the day). I’ve included it below.
Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. Sorry.
I do wish us Christians and Churches would grapple with this more. If we did, I’d hazard a guess that our reputation would be more of love and less of exclusion, distrust and judgement.
I’d really value your thoughts, how do you think we can love without stopping?
May your week be filled with love and may you pass that love on to those you meet.
First Things First – A Psalm of Aleem
All of heaven declares your wonder LORD;
All of creation proclaims the splendor of your presence.
You are the master micro surgeon;
You are the grand architect.
You formed my DNA;
You set the planets in motion.
From micro to macro you hold everything in your hand;
All of it speaks to your mercy, wisdom, power and love.
You have called me; and I have answered.
And yet the task at hand feels too great.
Who am I that you would call me?
I am inadequate.
I fall short.
Time and time again I fall short.
Forgive me LORD.
Forgive me of my failings.
Forgive my doubt.
Forgive my desire for comfort.
Forgive my complacency.
May I only ever seek and find my righteousness in you Jesus.
Then I can stand in your presence;
Then I can overflow with your Love;
Then your strength is made perfect and revealed in my weakness.
The task is overwhelming only because I dwell on it more than I seek you.
Jesus you are my primary focus;
I am only equipped for the task because of you.
You are my purpose.
You are my prayer.
You are my praise.
You are my worship.
You are my love.
You cause my lungs to draw in breath and blood to course through my veins.
The task is at hand but you guide their work.
Oh LORD, you first!
May my dealings be with you first.
For then my family, then your people will see you at work in me and they will put you first too.
You are mighty and worthy of all my praise and all my devotion.
You are my shepherd.
Cause me to shepherd as you do.
This is a very heartfelt psalm Aleem. Wow! Loved it
Thanks for keeping us thinking deeply…..
Loving without ceasing, I agree that order is important. Jesus/ God/ Holy Spirit need to have first place. For me that is allowing the things of God to be uppermost in my mind when I am going about my day, even to the point that I feel that i discuss a lot of points/ issues/ daily tasks with God as I go.
However I feel that there is more – in our world I see that the definition of love is sweet gooey emotion, rolling of the eyes, shy smiles, holding hands. It is very hard to do that ALL THE TIME! We understand love by how we can experience it with our senses. I believe that this passage is talking of a love that is not experienced physically or emotionally, rather it is a mature state of mind where the individual makes the choice to have an attitude of sacrificial selflessness. Rather than an experience of good emotions that really is a selfish interaction. For example, if our plane is delayed or we are stuck in traffic, we can choose to have an attitude of patience or we can experience feelings of anger and frustration. (A very simplistic example I know!)
And this is where order comes in for me. The Bible says that we love because God first loved us – so much so that He gave up his awesome life to experience life as we experience it! Why? Because love must be experienced and displayed. And Jesus displayed love for 30 years – not the selfish gooey feeling love – but the sacrificial attitude of love. So the order is God showed us, we understand it, and we now show others.
Dont get me wrong, an attitude of love is EXTREMELY difficult, however this is where I believe the passage is leading us. When we have an attitude of love, we have a soft heart. When we have a soft heart we do things, we sacrifice things for others because of the example of our God. It becomes real, it becomes doing, and it is not a burden because of the soft condition that our heart is in.
For me, the first step of doing everything in love is to choose the attitude of love, this draws me firstly to Him, then as I walk through the day I see opportunities (little and BIG) to do love to friends, strangers, family and others. The doing is the outworking of the softness of heart being kept soft by the daily renewing of the Holy Spirit…..
I agree. Thanks Glen!
A soft heart is vital … “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
Love the psalm, Aleem!! Love without ceasing is something not humanly possible to do simply because I am human (& I hope you are too!!) & humans humanly fail. We fail because we are limited beings prone to hunger, tiredness & self centredness. Paul’s statement to the effect that he doesn’t do what he ought to do & often does what he doesn’t want to do seems to sum this up nicely. So what hope is there to love without ceasing? Only the hope that the almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God can love others without ceasing through us. His Spirit indwells us so He can love others through us. The question then moves me to a place of, ‘will I allow God to love others unceasingly through me?’
To allow this, I have to follow another piece of scripture, ‘in humility think of others as better than yourself’. This helps me to not judge people by how they look, their race, their religion, their social standing, etc. Again, this i something that I cannot do of myself as my (sinful) humanity just gets in the way… If I think of others as better than myself it is a little easier to love them without ceasing… (And I doubt I’ll ever get this right until after death & the removal of my sin nature!!) A challenging post, Aleem!
“… will I allow God to love others unceasingly through me?” Love it! Thanks Dave.
Paul’s statement in Romans 7:15 is one I often come back to – either when I stuff up or pride starts to take hold. 🙂