Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

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October 2016

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Ending the Body Count

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body-countI was once asked to read I Corinthians 13 at a wedding.  I Corinthians 13, of course, is the greatest essay on the subject of love in all of literature. After the ceremony, a young woman in the wedding party came up to me and began to complement me on the words that I shared.  After a little probing, I discovered that she thought that I had actually written I Corinthians 13!

Well, I explained that I was reading the New Testament, and those words were inspired by God himself to tell us what true love is. I Corinthians 13 was written to a very troubled church, the church at Corinth, which was being consumed by infighting and division.  In this passage, we discover that God’s love, the love we are commanded to express to others, cannot be defined in one word.  We see that the biblical portrait of love is multi-dimensional.

Love is patient and kind, and does not brag. Love is not proud or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In addition to I Corinthians 13, there are many passages in the Bible that call God’s people to love:

*The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God with all of our being, and second unto it is to love our neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30,31)

*“If anyone does not love the Lord,” the Apostle Paul warned, “let him be accursed.” (I Corinthians 16:22)

*We are to love one another. (John 13:35)

*Let love be without hypocrisy. (Romans 12:9) 

*The love of Christ is to control us (2 Cor. 5:14)

*The fruit of a Spirit-filled life is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self

  control. (Galatians 5:22,23)

*Husbands and wives are to love one another (Ephesians 5:22-33).

*Parents are to love and nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4)

*For believers, our love is to abound toward one another in the Body of Christ with brotherly affection. (Romans 12:10)

*We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:19-21)

With such a clear directive, why does love seem to be so elusive?  Why do we often leave a body count behind us in the relationships of our lives?

Norm Wakefield in his insightful book, Equipped to Love: Building Idolatry-Free Relationships, identifies a spirit of idolatry that plagues human relationships. Wakefield asserts that we cannot truly love someone that we idolize, and the reason being is because we wrongly place them in a position to supply what only God can supply.

Like the idolater in the Old Testament who carved an idol of wood or stone, Wakefield identifies how we use different carving tools in our relationships. Our carving tools are not hammers, chisels, or knives. Our sophisticated tools include words or actions designed to get someone to do what we want them to do when we want them to do it.  This often leads to the death of relationships and a body count in the wake of our lives.

Common in the tool box of the human heart are the positive carving tools of manipulation, flattery, insincerity, gift-giving, etc.  On the surface, these carving tools don’t appear as negatives, but nevertheless are employed to get people to do what we want them to do because we seek to fashion them in such a way to supply self-centered desires and comfort. If we will be honest, many times our relationships are motivated by getting and using others to have our needs met.

Then of course, there are the negative carving tools, which are not hidden, but are very much out front and unmistakable. They include anger, lying, abusive behavior, intimidation, passive aggressive behavior, etc.  These carving tools rip apart relationships and bring the greatest hurts to our lives.

What about you? When you look at your life do you find one burned-out relationship after another?  Do you find yourself listing the faults of others when you haven’t taken time to examine your heart and open yourself up to some accountability?

One of the many beautiful attributes of Jesus Christ is that he never carved on anyone. In fact, he bids us to come to him by faith, and has pledged he will in no way cast us out.  Those who follow in the marks of His wounded feet will put aside our carving tools and go on record with the greatest legacy we can leave, and that being….we truly loved others.

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