Monday, September 19, 2011

Sister to Sister: I am Nothing..

~Tracy Frederick

We have all heard sermons about it, heard it recited at weddings, and have seen the plaques hanging in family homes describing it: love.  We all know where the definition is found:  I Corinthians 13: 4 through 8, and might be able to recite it. Few of us, however, have a chance to really practice the kind of love that Paul is talking about, the kind that we would give up our social status, our importance in the community,  social standing in the church, neglect our jobs, gve up our homes, and even our lives and take the servant position, you know what I mean, like when Jesus washed the apostles feet; like when Jesus died on the cross.  Because, if we practice it, love that is,  it means we will suffer because of it, will give everything up for it.  We first must read carefully I Corinthians 13, verses 4-8 to get  the true perspective on what must be given for love:
 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels
  if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and
  if I have all faith so as to move mountains, and
  if I give all of my possessions to feed the poor, and
  if I surrender my body to be burned
  BUT do not have love,
  ….I have become a noisy gong or clanging symbol, have nothing, and
  ….I am nothing.
Jesus washed the Apostle’s feet because He loved them, that is, a godly love. Notice what the Lord says through the writer John: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). I know that we use this passage to teach humbleness and rightly so, but if you notice the text, the first verse tells you why He did it, why He humbled Himself before He gave the ultimate sacrifice for them, knowing they would desert Him, deny Him and walk away when He needed their comfort and, yes, their love the most. He washed their feet because He loved them when they were unlovable. When our Lord is asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied: “love.” (Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”Mtt. 23:37-40). It is interesting to me to note that our Lord equates loving our neighbor to loving God- with all our heart, soul and mind. In John 13: 34 Jesus prepares His followers for His departure. The way He does that, is to ask us, His followers, to love: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  
Again, when our Lord is about to leave this earth and the third time He appeared to his apostles, He feeds them. These were men that He was leaving behind, men He had spent three years preparing and training to do His work; teaching them who God is, showing them God (John 14), showing them how to teach others with compassion (John 14), showing them how to deal with the cruel leaders of the government who would persecute them (John 10) , and showing them how to love those who were lost (Mtt 14: 13-21) . He gave them the perfect pattern. Then He asks one simple question before He goes: “Do you love me?”  We have all heard the sermons on the different kinds of love. We are familiar with the definition that Peter answers "Yes, I love you,"(phileo= friendship/affection for) and the kind of word our Lord uses when He asks Peter if he loves Him (agape= self sacrificing). We know that our Savior asks Peter to sacrifice for Him, to give up his own selfish desires to serve Him and give everything he has for His purpose. Peter would need that kind of love to withstand the future that he would face for the cause of Christ. I believe, as all who are united in thought that God must be first in our lives, that no other kind of love is acceptable when working with each other and those who are lost. Love, real, godly love is not an option, it is a commandment. Paul reinforces the idea in Galations 6 when he reminds us that we are prey for "the evil one," and therefore, we must stick together and pick each other up….we must love, really love each other. Now, I think we are ready to consider the definition of what love is. Let’s let God define these words for us, shall we? Mine and yours are too earthly, too corrupt for such a task. God-like love can only be defined with His example and His words:
…is patient/longsuffering:
Romans 9:22:  “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction [people].”
II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
II Peter 3:14-15: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you”
…is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own:
II Philippians 2:3-8: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Galations 6:1-5:  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.”
…is not easily provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffering (forgiving), does not rejoice in unrighteousness:
Luke 23:34: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”
John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
…rejoices in the truth:
Matt 26: 38-39: “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, never fails:
Deuteronomy 7:9: “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.”

Now that we have been reminded of the definition, it is time to start loving…or sacrificing whichever you want to call it,  loving the way God loved us:  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 1 John 4:7. It isn’t easy, I know, and the Lord knows too…but dying for us wasn’t so easy either as you see in the passages above when Jesus begged our God that the “cup pass” from him. Nope, it isn't easy, but not an option, if we want God's love and sacrifice: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
Tracy is the wife of Greg Frederick who serves as an elder for the Lord's church in Arkansas City. They have one grown daughter who is married to a faithful gospel preacher. Tracy serves the Lord's church by teaching Bible classes, helping with ladies days, speaking at ladies days, intepreting worship for the deaf members and enjoys cooking for members. She holds a Phd in communication and is also employed full time by a local four year college where she teaches communication courses in the undergraduate and graduate programs.  

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