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Friday, July 10, 2009

Real Love

The Bible is one of those challenging tombs - where we'll decide that it's good and right. We'll declare that we're going to follow it. There'll be things that we underline and say "Amen!" to. We totally agree with them. They epitomize righteousness.

And then we stumble across another Scripture that will simply force us into a reconciliation process. Scripture never contradicts itself. Ironically, Scripture never allows true followers of God to contradict themselves either! Instead, Scripture will force us to reconcile our beliefs and our behaviors, one by one.

1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 3 are two such pieces of Scripture. These two chapters are replete with definitions of love. Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13. It's the stuff of greeting cards and wedding vows and wall plaques. "Love is patient, love is kind ... it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres."

Did you catch that? It "keeps no record of wrongs." How many of us can say we do that? Christianity is a religion of the heart. But bitterness against someone who has wronged you is an evil cancer within you. It will eventually destroy you. If we're honest, most of us have some bitter cancers that still need to be dealt with.

I've blogged about forgiveness in the past. It is a continuing decision and action. Sometimes it requires the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish it. I can think I've totally forgiven someone - and then unforgiveness will come creeping back into my mind (and heart) when I least expect it. And there is the cancer of bitterness, resentment, anger, frustration and all those other negative feelings - right back in my lap again!

1 John 3 tells us that those who are truly in Christ Jesus (and I'm paraphrasing here) - who truly do belong to the Lord, will love one another not with words or feelings - but with actions and in truth. Jesus taught that whoever hates another person is a murderer at heart (Matthew 5:21-22). In other words, my contempt for someone who has wronged me or of whom I disapprove overwhelms whatever love I may think I have for them. Simply put, it is not possible to love someone and hold them in contempt at the same time. One will cancel out the other.

Too often we'll live in denial, telling yourself that we love someone. At the same time we'll tell ourselves that we're Christ-followers. But God's Word is the truth. And the truth says that if we don't have loving actions toward others, the love of Christ simply isn't in us.

Like I said, Scripture demands that we reconcile our opposing beliefs and behaviors.

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