Because of Love

Was Paul a man-pleaser?  In reading 1 Corinthians 8 through 10, Paul’s continued references to becoming like whomever he was with almost made me think so, except that his response towards those in opposition to the gospel quickly dispels that notion.  How was it, though, that he was willing to live in bondage again around different people, though he was absolutely free in Christ?  Finally, it began to sink into my heart that Paul did it all because of love.  He had such a revelation of God and His love that his life was a reflection of that amazing love – not only for him, but for everyone else.  In fact, in his next letter, a short phrase sums up the guiding heartbeat behind his every action and word:

2 Corinthians 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, . . . NIV

You see, Paul understood the freedom he had received in Christ, far beyond what most of us have grasped; yet, he knew others could easily be led astray if he stayed focused only on his freedom.  For others who didn’t yet know that same freedom in Christ, the gospel would be hindered.  Nothing in Paul’s life was more important to him than being an effective witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.

1 Corinthians 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. NIV

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 19 For although I am free in every way from anyone’s control, I have made myself a bond servant to everyone, so that I might gain the more [for Christ].  20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to men under the Law, [I became] as one under the Law, though not myself being under the Law, that I might win those under the Law.  21 To those without (outside) law I became as one without law, not that I am without the law of God and lawless toward Him, but that I am [especially keeping] within and committed to the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.  22 To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and overscrupulous. I have [in short] become all things to all men, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ].  23 And I do this for the sake of the good news (the Gospel), in order that I may become a participator in it and share in its [blessings along with you]. AMP

This isn’t so hard for me to grasp when I remember that Paul followed Jesus Christ, and Jesus willingly suffered the pain, humiliation, and separation of crucifixion – because of love.  Beyond that, Jesus humbled Himself by leaving His true home in heaven to come to earth as a man to live among us, imperfect man – because of love.

Will I follow Paul, as he followed Christ?  In that love, will I yield my God-granted freedoms, when necessary, so I don’t hinder anyone’s journey to or in Jesus – the One I claim to represent?  Will I become as one who is lost, that I might win them to Christ?  Without increasing in the experience of God and His love in Christ, my answers will be “no.”  If I will but purpose to know my Lord more, just to know Him, I will know His love more.  I will be changed because of His love.  In turn, I will help others see and know Christ – because His love compels me.

Love Never Fails

As I listened to a human message about agape love, that unconditional and perfect love of God, the Lord added His message to my heart.  The preacher encouraged us to love with agape love those people who are not yet saved, are not in right relationship with the Lord, or are even out of relationship with us.  If we live this love, we were promised, they will have to come around sometime, even if it’s in the distant future, because love never fails1.

I moved from there with Holy Spirit while He took me down a different path from the one on which I had just traveled.  Love never fails is the Word of God, so it is Truth2.  Not only is the Greek word for love in this reference agape, but in another reference, God is love3, the Greek word used is also agape.  God, Himself, is the agape love that never fails.  He doesn’t just have it, and He doesn’t just love with it.  He is this very love!

I then thought of many people who have never turned their lives around, as far as we know, nor have they been restored to family, despite friends and family members praying faithfully and loving them as best they could.  Did love fail?  Agape love never fails.  How, then, do we reconcile our experiences that appear contrary to the Truth of the Bible?

Since God is this agape love, He loves every person perfectly, regardless of their deeds or words.  He never messes up by saying or doing the wrong thing that moves them farther away, nor is He impatient with slow, or seemingly non-existent, progress.  Yet, even in His perfect love, people all over the world are not restored to family and friends, or end up in hell by refusing to repent and receive His love.  Has agape failed?  Has God failed?  Absolutely not!  Love will never fail!  What have failed are our man-made, man-determined, expectations.  If God loving perfectly (and patiently) doesn’t always bring about His desired change in others, our imperfect (and often impatient) efforts at living agape love for others certainly won’t.  How can we make sense of it all?

We need to understand the expectations we have had in these socalled failed cases.  We expected if we showed God’s love, we would get our will for someone else because we know it’s God’s will, too.  What we have failed to grasp is that, in His unlimited wisdom, plan, and perfect agape love, God created each of us with a free will, and He does not override those wills – ever –  even when those wills end up leading to eternal death in hell, forever separated from Him and His love.  Even in that outcome, love hasn’t failed.  Agape made the way for that person (and every other) to be reconciled to God’s love for all eternity, through Jesus Christ.  With His blood, Jesus paid the price so we could know this amazing love, even for those who would never accept it.  No, that love never fails.  It never has and it never will.

Where does this leave us, with regards to the wandering ones?  Since God so loves them, even as He so loves us, we continue allowing His love to grow in us and show through us so that all around us are exposed to His wonderful, perfect love.  The difference now is that we have removed our limiting human expectations about the outcome, for love never fails!

1 1 Corinthians 13:8

2 John 17:17

3 1 John 4:8 & 16