Perry Emerick – Mesa Campus Pastor
If you have ever been a parent, or a kid for that matter, which by my count includes all of us, then you can relate to the image of trying to force a kid to eat lima beans or whatever the disgusting food of choice was. The nose curls up, the eyebrows angle down, the lips tighten, and the challenge is on! Eventually, the words, “You can’t make me!” come out. The more you reason or talk, the more they dig in, sometimes to the point of plugging their ears and saying loudly, “I can’t hear you! La la la la la la….” trying to avoid any crack in their will to avoid whatever it is they are being confronted with. Ah the good old days! Of course as adults, none of us does that anymore thank goodness!
The sad truth is, I haven’t fully stopped doing that, I have just found different ways to express it…or more accurately…hide it. Like everybody else, I don’t want to do what I don’t want to do, but unfortunately, of maybe fortunately, it doesn’t work so well for a grown man to act out that way. I can just imagine my boss asking me to take care of a project that I find unpleasant and me saying in the brattiest voice I can “No! And you can’t make me!” Which he would probably respond by saying, “you’re right…I can’t…nor do I have to pay you to work here anymore.” We probably all get that when it comes to our jobs, but what about other areas of our lives?
In I Cor. 13, commonly known as the love chapter, we see this amazing list of characteristics that the apostle Paul attributes to the qualities of love. Love is patient, it is kind, it does not boast or envy. It is not proud, rude, self seeking or easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs, doesn’t delight in evil, rejoices in the truth; always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres, and of course love never fails. It is a very impressive list, one that I would like to say represents how I conduct myself, but unfortunately doesn’t. I can’t even get past the first one! Yet often the reason this list doesn’t define me is because often I just don’t want to be like that. I want it to be about me, and this list doesn’t really accommodate that very well. But I find it interesting that just a few verses later, Paul shares this analogy:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I though like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” I Cor. 13:11
It almost seems out of place in this chapter, except when you consider the fact that children generally do not act according to the traits on this list. They may have their loving moments that melt your heart, but generally they are pretty selfish and impatient. Of course in context, the analogy could also be a reference to a post-life understanding of what perfect love is. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t strive to display this kind of love here on earth either. The truth is, as vs. 10 states, “when perfection comes…” also refers to Jesus, who came and displayed a perfect love for us, even to the point of death on the cross. As a follower of Jesus, I have received his perfect love, been made a new creation, and have been set free to fully pursue loving others as Paul writes about. My flesh desire something different, but my spirit desires to love fully. So the choice for me is to resist the flesh and embrace who I am in Christ and choose to love others as he has loved me. Jesus could have said no to the cross, but didn’t. Who am I to say no to his invitation to love others? As he commanded,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
God isn’t going to make you, but he has commanded you…so what is stopping you?