"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sin." I Peter 4:8
As I get older, I find I am more and more about giving grace and extending love than about my rules and ideals. Perhaps I see my sin nature more clearly and appreciate His love and forgiveness more. I fail and fall below my own standards so often and yet, he still loves me, answers my prayers, meets with me when I seek Him out and now I know that I can't do without Him. When I was younger, I had more stamina to push toward standards and ideals and make goals and try, by my own strength, to accomplis so much. Now, my plate has never been fuller and my responsibilities are greater, but I know that without His divine intervention, my life would be in shambles.
I have been a part of trying to help a couple of different groups of women in different parts of the United States through a split. Both were groups that were formed on ideals and that existed for the benefit and help of women--both were Christian groups. Yet, because of differences and accusations, the groups split up. As I have reflected on this, the thought occurred that some day all of these women will stand face to face with Jesus--before His throne--in the presence of His holiness. When we are there, we, like all of the others recorded in scripture will be saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty." All of the petty sins and selfishness that we held on to so tightly in this world will be an embarrassment. All the ways we gossiped or were critical or unforgiving or harsh will be a cause for shame in light of His amazing, sacrificial, humble love poured out sacrificially on our behalf.
As I have thought about what present I want to give Jesus this year for His birthday, I have thought that perhaps He would be pleased with love from my heart. But not just love for Him, but generous, spilling over, lavish love shown to all precious people he has brought into my life. I have resolved to love those who don't especially love me. I want to send special notes of love to those I appreciate. I want to cover any tension in my family this Christmas with love and grace--for the sake of my great appreciation for His unconditional love.
God hates divorce because it is a breaking of the bonds of love promised by a husband and wife. Love is most precious when it is given freely to one who does not deserve it. Peter, who denied Jesus at the most important moment of history, knows of this love, because He received it from Christ. When He denied Jesus, he felt the shame, but Jesus came to him and restored him to fellowship and said, "Peter, you feel my sheep." He validated his confidence in Peter, as worthy of being a shepherd of his people, even after Peter sinned. And so when Peter says, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sin," he says it from personal experience--Jesus' love covered a multitude--a whole bunch- of his sin and shortcomings. It is impossible to exercise love and hold bitterness or a critical attitude at the same time--it will be one or the other.
Divorce is not just in marriage--it can be between a parent and a child; a friend and a friend, between siblings, in a church, in a women's group. Divorce is the natural result of living by the flesh and living with an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" sort of mentality--you hurt me, you don't deserve my love; you are wrong type of heart attitudes.
But love, unconditional love, that says, "No matter what, I am committed to you. I will love you. I will be loyal to you. I will accept you and I will be generous to you, not because you deserve it, but because I didn't deserve it and Jesus still loved me. I will love you for His sake. I will love you because His spirit fills me and when I am obedient to Him, I must love."
So, this Christmas, let us please Him. Let us forgive those who have wronged us. Let us put aside bitterness and malice and choose love. Let us cover over the flaws of those in our lives with His love, because it is the best gift we have to offer him. One of His last admonitions to his disciples was, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that a man lay down his life for his friend."
Contention is natural. Love is supernatural. Is there a child who has offended you and been ungrateful? Love that child. Has your husband neglected you and been ungracious? Love that spouse. Have your parents rejected you or been petty? Love those parents. Has a friend been unfaithful or catty? Love that friend. Is there anyone in your heart from whom you are separated? Love that person. It is your opportunity to be healed, your opportunity to please Jesus. Love is a commitment that brings freedom, healing and joy.
And remember above all, that He loves you. Nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8 ) Jesus loves you and proved it by His humble, sacrificial love, shown even in washing the very feet of his disciples on the night he was going to be killed--always loving, always encouraging, always giving life. He loves you in the same humble, compassionate, encouraging way.
But beyond that, the last words of his High Priestly prayer shows us God's intention for all of us, "I have made your name (God's name) known and will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me, Oh God, may be in them (his disciples--in us) and I in them." God, the Father, loves you with an everlasting love. We love Him because He first loved us! May His heart be pleased with our gift of love this year as we celebrate his birthday with grace, overwhelming joy and peace.