Posted by: forfreedomalone | 03/06/2017

What is this thing called love?

I am often asked, when I teach that God’s love is not like human love, to explain what it is like.
This is not too challenging because the Bible tell us exactly what it is like.
 
The book of 1 Corinthians tells us all we need to know in the 13th chapter.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
 
But what exactly does it mean?
How do we define ‘patient’, ‘kind’, ‘etc? And when we have defined them, are we defining them as God does?
 
Let’s take them one at a time.
 
LOVE IS PATIENT.
 
The word, translated as ‘patient’, is μακροθυμέω (makrothymeō) and means “to be long-spirited, to not lose heart. To persevere patiently and bravely”.
 
It is obvious, I think you will agree, that the context of this word is not patience with circumstances, but patience with people.
Some Bibles translate is as ‘long-suffering’.
 
Long-suffering is the opposite of angry. It is associated with the concepts of mercy and is often used to describe an attribute of God’s own character. This kind of patience does not give up, it does not give in, it is not overcome by circumstances or trials.
Long-suffering gives no place to despondency or loss of hope.
 
Matthew Hendry, in his famous commentary, says ” It (love) can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.”
 
No wonder God is described in those terms!
Ex 34:6 “The Lord, the Lord your God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth”.
Rom 2:4 ” Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience…….”
Rom 9:22 “What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
 
There are many more.
 
We are told that if we have the Spirit and his fruit is evident in our lives, long-suffering will be seen in us. (Gal 5:22)
 
Eph 4:2 tells us that we are to be long-suffering towards one another.
 
The information that love was long-suffering was delivered to the church at Corinth. The members of the church there were anything but long-suffering. They would not wait until everyone was gathered to take communion; they fell into disputes and took one another to court. They must have blushed when they read Paul’s letter.
 
Today’s Christians are no better. We behave just like the world.
“I (you) shouldn’t have to put up with THAT!”
“What he/she did/said was unforgivable!” (Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, ………..just as the Lord forgave you. Col 3:13)
 
We do not silently endure ill treatment, we cry “abuse” at the drop of a hat and we have no ability to ‘put up with it’.
We see the violation of ‘our rights’ and we feel badly done by when we are on the receiving end of mistreatment.
We are thin skinned and self-orientated.
We lack long-suffering.
 
 
When we look at God’s love for us, we can clearly see his character of long-suffering. How long does he suffer us? How long does he persevere with us, enduring until we are conformed to the image of his son?
How many chances does he give us to ‘straighten up and fly right’?
How many times does he forgive us?
How often does he demand his rights?
 
I don’t think I actually need to answer those questions.
He is patient with us beyond our understanding, beyond anything we deserve.
 
God is love and love is patient.
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