An English businessman visited a mission hospital for lepers in India. He was deeply impressed by the nurse's loving care for the suffering and repulsive-looking patients.
"Your humanitarian sentiment and sacrificial service for these outcasts are praiseworthy indeed," he said.
"I can assure you, sir, that if my continuance here was based only on humanitarian sentiments, I would not have the will to carry on. I would leave before nightfall. The constraining love of Christ enables me to carry on day by day."
Paul wrote that love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Cor. 13.7).
Love always protects - it throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. We tend to be rather good at protecting ourselves in our own failures and disappointments. But what about the weaknesses and needs of someone else? In the previous study we noted, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (v. 6). Love, remember, is not self-centred, but other-centred.
In other words, love is supportive of others where they are weak. Far from delighting in their weakness, love comes in at that very point to bring support and strength. Far from delighting in someone else's failure or sin, love brings forgiveness, hope and healing.
Peter wrote to Christians facing persecution, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4.8).
Peter no doubt remembered the occasion when he thought that to forgive his brother seven times was generous. But in this, as we note further in the next study, he had failed to measure the greatness of God's love and forgiveness towards him - and what was now required of his love (Mt. 18.21-35).
Love always protects - but not in the passive sense of patient endurance or mild acquiescence, not covering up and pretending there is no problem, but positively bringing forgiveness, hope and healing.
Love always trusts. This doesn't mean that love is gullible, easily tricked, but that love never loses faith. It is for this reason that love is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt.
As noted previously, it is the truth of God's plan for a person that love must keep in focus. John tells us, "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew everyone. He did not need anyone's testimony about people, for he knew what was in them" (Jn 2.24-25).
Jesus was no fool. Yet he always trusted. He lived out his life with positive faith - not fear - even though what was in people took him to the Cross. In his love, he believed in us enough to die for us so that God's good purpose could begin to come about in us.
This is surely why love always hopes and why love perseveres in loving no matter what hardship or rebuff it may be called on to endure.
One writer notes, "The thought is not that of an unreasoning optimism, which fails to take account of reality. It is rather a refusal to take failure as final."
What is this love that always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres? "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 Jn 4.10). The love of God for us in Christ is both the inspiration and source of our love.
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (v. 11).
|PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are Love. You have loved us in Jesus. True love comes from you. Give me true love, Lord - the love that does not tire, the love that renews and heals. For Jesus' sake, Amen.|
The mountain top
and early morn.
filled with mist
a radiant sea of white.
The other mountain tops
from the ocean floor
in the morning.
But as I watched,
the sea of white
began to fade
so I could see
trees and rocks,
a house or two,
and green pasture.
The mist was gone,
the day began.
And are we islands,
or do we need
the radiant Sun of Love
to clear the mists
our common humanity?
© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.
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