The End Is The Beginning by Lauren Mitchell
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages on love. It is read at weddings every where and referenced in just about every sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject of love. In essence, it is a list of characteristics on love:
“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; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Reading these words has made me feel powerless and exhausted. No seriously, just reading it makes me tired. It lists things I do every day. I can be envious and boastful, arrogant and rude. I definitely insist on my own way daily and can be quite irritable! When I read the scripture, I know that I am not capable of this kind of love. At the same time, I know that scripture says there is no good work that God doesn’t equip us for, (2 Timothy 3:17, 2 Peter 1:3, & Hebrews 13:21). God does not expect us to power through this. He is totally aware of our limitations and has totally provided for them. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t we able to get it together and love well? I have struggled with the Truth that God will supply everything I need for life. I have to totally come to the end of myself, which is exactly where God wants me. I firmly believe love is not something God thought we were capable of. Just like the ten commandments weren’t a list of things God expected us to keep. He is totally aware of our limitations. He intended them to bring us to His feet and the end of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing that brings me to the end of myself like my husband and children. Our failure to love even the people closest to us is meant to help us realize our chasm of need.
When I started researching this love list of impossible things in 1 Corinthians, I found the answer. Those pairs of characteristics are distortions. They are indications of something gone wrong in us. At the bottom of all the “do nots” is a misunderstanding of God’s love. The root is either a hurt or pain that has created fissures in our souls, one we have not allowed God to fully heal. It can be a sin which leaves us with a gaping hole we haven’t let God fully deal with. We are often left with cracks, or sometimes chunks taken out of us. When we aren’t whole, we can’t be vessels that overflow with love. God can equip us all day long, but if our vessel isn’t whole, we aren’t useful. 2 Timothy 2:21 tells us, “if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work”. If we can’t hold what He pours; it just leaks right out. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, we can’t be conformed from the outside. We have to be transformed from the inside. Romans 12:2 explains we are not to be “conformed to this world” instead we are to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds”.
We are under constant pressure to perform when we listen to the voice of the world, instead of the God. We have to be transformed by renewal, not conformed by pressure. I have determined that I will stop treating myself like Jell-O. I was not created to be pressed into a mold, but to reflect my creator.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16 ESV). Before we can abide in love we have to know and believe the love God has for us. I love how the NIV phrases this “we know and rely on the love God has for us”. The NIV replaces “believe” with “rely”. The first sentence of 1 John 4:16 is pivotal because It implies we are to know and believe that God loves us and His love is available to us and is at our disposal. We can rely on Him for the power and strength to love for “God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.” Abiding in God is how we love. I know…it’s that simple! We have to let His healing light shine on all those shattered places in our life so He can fill and close up all the things that have left us broken. We have to allow ourselves the time needed in His presence, because only His presence brings transformation.
God, open my eyes to see what I am not capable of and let that realization propel me to your feet. Help me to know and believe not just that you love me, but you have also put the HolySpirit at my disposal. You have set him in my heart! He is everything needed for life and godliness. He is everything needed for love. Teach me to abide and out of that abiding let love flow. In Jesus name, Amen.