Monday, July 22, 2013

The Love Test

                “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
                The word “love” used by Paul is “agape”. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love. It is the same love used to describe Christ as He hung upon the cross for our sins. It is a love that does not change. It is self-giving and does not expect anything in return. “The word has little to do with emotion; it has much to do with self-denial for the sake of others.” (David Guziak, Blue Letter Bible) Love is not something we feel, it is something we do. Love is action, not reaction. Love is solid and withstands, it does not wither at the slightest heat. Love is more than feeling; love is a willingness to persevere and work through whatever comes its way.
                So many of our children are tossed into a world where love is based off of emotion. We get those fuzzy feelings and think we must be in love. So we jump head first into a relationship without really understanding what love is. How much easier my marriage would have been if someone would have explained what love was before I got married! It wasn’t until I took the “Love test” that I began to fully understand and was able to walk out love before my husband.
                The “Love Test” is not to determine if you are loveable or even if you can love, it is taken to show you what Love truly is and how we are to act it out. I believe every person getting married or in a relationship should take this test and understand what love is before they even consider saying “I do”. For those of us who are currently married, this is a good test to take to show us how we can love our husbands the way Christ desires us to. But this “Love Test” is not only for those of us in relationships. It is for us as Christians as well, to show us how to love our brethren, the way Christ loves us.

                The first step is to replace the word “love” with your name. Instead of “love suffers long and is kind,” say your name along with “suffers long and is kind.” Do you suffer long and are you kind? To suffer long is the opposite of anger. It means that you have a quality of self-restraint when provoked. Longsuffering means that you do not retaliate, but show mercy.  If you suffer long and show mercy, kindness follows. John Chrystostem said, in regards to love being kind, “is used of the man who is wronged, and who easily has the power to avenge himself, but will not do it out of mercy and patience.” How many times have we, in our marriages and relationships been wronged and we wanted to punish or lash out at the person who hurt us. We give the cold shoulder to our husbands, or speak things that are hurtful, just so that we can make them feel our pain. Love does not do this. Love suffers the wrongs it has been dealt and returns it with kindness. Do you suffer long and are you kind in your relationships?
                Next in our test we see that “love does not envy”. Do you envy? To envy means to burn with jealousy and can also mean to be covetous. Do you want something you can’t have? Do you see the success and well being of others and think that you are entitled to the same? Clarke writes that those who love “are ever willing that others should be preferred before them.”  Love does not want to be in the front all the time, it does not see a sister get honored and become jealous, but rejoices for her. Love does not envy the fact that you work twice as hard as your husband, yet make half the salary. Love does not envy, do you?
  “Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” Love does not go around boasting about how great you are. Love does not brag; it does not embellish oneself to make oneself appear greater. Love is not arrogant or self focused.  David Guziak writes, “Sometimes people who work the hardest at love are those the furthest from it. They do things many would perceive as loving, yet they do them in a manner which would parade itself. This isn’t love; this is pride looking for glory by the appearance of love.” Love does not make an eight course meal for one hundred people, then tell everyone about all the work and “love” you put into it. Love does not clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals and take care of the children just so that you can brag to your husband’s friends about how wonderful you are. Love does not look for the spotlight; love shies away from it and points it to Jesus. Do you parade yourself, are you puffed up?
                The second part of the love test moves from telling us what Love is not to what love does. It moves from description to action. Here, we place our name and say, “does not behave rudely.” I have met some rude people in my life, and some of them Christians. They speak offensively, all in jest, of course, and say things that are inappropriate. I myself have said and done some offensive things, so no one is perfect. But, to be a Christian we must learn that where there is to be love, there are to be good manners as well.  Love does not behave rudely, and neither should we.
     Love “does not seek its own”. Paul writes in Philippians 2:4 that we should “look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interest of others.” Love does not demand something it desires from someone else. Love does not go around barking orders and expecting everyone to fulfill their demands. I see this in marriages all the time. Wives feel they are entitled to something because they have done all these things for their families. Do we realize that we gave up the right to be right when we gave our lives to Jesus Christ? Christ did not come and demand from us that we pay the penalty for our sins; instead He willingly laid down His life for yours. Love does not seek what it can get from others, but seeks what it can give to others. Love does not seek it own, do you?
                Love “is not easily provoked”. This was and is a hard one for me, especially in my marriage. Sometimes he just makes me so mad, that I want to scream. But love does not allow others to provoke them. Love is not easily irritated or roused in anger towards another. “When the man who possesses this love gives way to provocation, he loses the balance of his soul, and grieves the Spirit of God…surely if he gets embittered against his neighbor, he does not love him as himself.” (Clarke, Blue Letter Bible) Allowing others to provoke me to anger, instead of showing mercy and kindness is not what love would do. Love would wait and breathe, pray and rely on the Lord to give us a heart ready to forgive. Are you easily provoked?
     Love also, “thinks no evil”. Love does not keep a record of all the wrongs that have ever been committed by your spouse, or your brother or sister in the Lord or in the world. Love does not keep a record of all the times your husband said something to offend you or hurt you. Love does not bring up a wrong committed twenty years ago when having a heated debate. Love forgives and forgets. Love puts away the past. So many of us married, or in relationships, hold onto past hurts because we don’t want to get hurt again, but instead we are the ones that do the hurting when we bring up past wrongs and throw them into the face of our loved ones. Love lets go of the past and moves on to the future. Love forgets the things he said, or didn’t say, forgets the things he did or didn’t do. Love “thinks no evil”; do you?
                Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth”. Love does not find itself happy when someone messes up, or sins. Love wants the best for others at all times. Love seeks to know the truth of any situation. It does not laugh at the faults of others, but seeks only their good, and seeks to show them the truth. No man is perfect, and love accepts that and rejoices that Jesus is perfect, and in Him all unrighteousness is made righteous.
                The last part of the love test is the hardest of all. Charles Spurgeon calls these four virtues “loves four companions”. Love, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love bears all things. All means all; there is no exception to the word all. It encompasses everything and everyone. Love will hide and excuse the errors and faults of others. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us that “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Love believes; it gives others the benefit of the doubt. “Love stands in the presence of a fault, with a finger on her lip.” (Spurgeon)  Love hopes for the best, believes in the best and desires to persevere under the trials and tribulations of every circumstance. Love is willing to stand beside its spouse, brother or sister and say, “I am with you, because I will bear with you, I believe in you, I have hope in God for you, and I will endure whatever comes our way with you.” Love does not give up and it does not give in.
   “You must have fervent love towards the saints, but you will find very much about the best of them will try your patience, for like you, they are imperfect, and they will not always turn their best side towards you, but sometimes, sadly exhibit their infirmities. Be prepared, therefore, to contend with all things in them.” (Spurgeon) Love is not something we feel, it is something we do, and is who we are. We are to be like Christ. If we put Christ’s name before all the scripture laid before us, we would see that Christ is all these things. He is longsuffering, He endured all things, believed all things, hoped all things and most of all, He bore all things for our sakes. We are to find ourselves in the words of Love written for us. Many of our marriages are failing because we have based love off of feeling, instead of what it truly is. Love is who we are and what we do. If you are having trouble in your relationships, whether in your marriage or with your brothers and sisters, take the love test, one can gauge their spiritual maturity with the words of 1 Corinthians 13, and can transform all their interactions with all people just by living love. Amen and Amen.