January 30, 2013

Practicing Love

Today’s devotional reading asks a rhetorical question: Isn’t life full of opportunities for learning love?
As someone who does not work outside the home and whose children have grown and have their own families, how can I practice love? What opportunities does God give me? I want to be in that schoolroom learning those lessons of love, but how can I develop this in the quiet of where I live?

The love of God is not about emotions. Rather, it is an expression of a Christlike nature that could be emotional, but more often involves action. As today’s reading says, this love is built up by daily practice and aided by the biblical assurance that love “never fails.”

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What can I do to practice this incredible gift from God so my life bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit and glorifies Him? Scripture defines love by what it is and what it is not.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, 13)

These verses give me some ideas. While many of these are more about attitude than actions, those attitudes will come out as opportunities arise. With that in mind, here are some ways to practice love:

Patient – means long suffering, so showing patience without blowing up — with everything from untangling a ball of yarn to that repair man who keeps making mistakes, to disappointment and failures, including my own.

Kind – to the clerks in the grocery store, the sales people who call, and to my family who can bug me at times.

No envy – of others who have “bigger, better, more” so as to build my life around keeping up to the status quo, or of others whom God is blessing when I do not feel blessed.

No boasting – about what I have that others do not, or about God’s blessing on my life without humility and remembering I deserve none of it.

No arrogance – thinking myself better than others, putting down others, or dwelling their faults.

Not rude – not even to telemarketers and pushy sales people, or to family members whose feelings can be taken for granted.

Puts others first – letting traffic into my lane, giving my husband the best piece of pie, listening instead of talking, praying when issues come up instead of when it is convenient to pray.

Not irritable – when the neighbor’s dogs bark and bark, or when a talkative clerk takes forever with the person in line ahead of me.

Not resentful – when I am in the middle of something and am interrupted, or when someone cuts me off in traffic.
Rejoices not with evil but with the truth – not fascinated by daily disasters, instead praying for those in need.

Bears all things – listening to a lonely person on those days when my to-do list is exceptionally long.

Believes all things – remembering that God is my supply so I can sacrificially give without anxiety that I myself will lose out, and so I can pray with assurance that He is listening.

Hopes all things – eagerly expecting God to answer my prayers and reward love in many ways.

Endures all things – means to stay under, abide in situations that tempt or test me.

Some day God will judge me for what I have done and neglected to do, but I doubt that He will consider my theology or how often I attended church or how much money I gave. Instead, He will focus on how I have loved Him and loved others. 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12–17)

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