“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” —1 John 3:18 MSG
Hey Friends —
I’ll never forget the day I pasted a smile on my face as a couple thousand people in my church sanctuary cheered for me, hooting and hollering. They were standing to their feet.
After nearly six years on staff, it was my last Sunday as children’s ministry director at my church, and my pastor had just finished praying for me. Anyone would have thought the applause and a standing ovation would have blessed my socks off, but it had the opposite effect.
When I got off the stage and wandered down a hallway, a man stopped me in my tracks.
“You must feel so loved right now,” he said as he shook my hand enthusiastically.
Truth be told, I felt broken inside.
I was leaving my leadership role at the church for which I cared deeply, and would be focusing all my attention at home. I thought God was going to use my story to change lives around the world, but instead I was “promoted” to changing diapers, onesies, and bed sheets.
God had called me to this new season and transition, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle. In reality, I felt more lost and confused than loved.
“You must feel so loved right now…”
How often I’ve thought about the irony in the man’s words.
What does it mean to feel loved?
What does it mean to love somebody?
Because I don’t know about you, but I sure throw that word around mighty easily.
- I love Mexican food.
- I love to watch “Dateline.”
- I love coffee (boy, do I love coffee!)
- I love my Keurig! In fact, for me “camping” is dwelling anywhere without it.
- I love being a hockey mom.
And on and on I use the word “love,” tossing it around like an almost weightless Frisbee of a word–whispy, floaty and fluffy.
This is what we do in our day, right?
We just love everything!
There are love bugs, love seats, and love boats.
And love notes, love songs, and love birds.
You can be lovesick, loveless, and lovely.
You can fall in it, be addicted to it, play the game of love, with the power of love.
There’s even a “Love Chapter” of the Bible, and it happens to be near the end of Paul’s letter to those sometimes loveless Corinthians. (Can I just say “Loveless” is a great name for a country singer, but a bad, bad way to be in Christian community.)
We’ve heard the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) read and expounded on many times, mostly at weddings. It’s one of the most memorized, well-liked and well-known passages in all of Scripture, even by non-church folk.
In fact, we’ve heard this famous passage so often our eyes kind of glaze over. “Love is patient, love is kind…”
Yeah, yeah. We know how this goes.
Yet, wedding sermons, cross-stitched pillows and even proposal grist was not Paul’s intent when he wrote those famous words. Paul was actually not “feeling the love,” if you know what I mean.
Instead, Paul was rebuking a dysfunctional church for their lack of love.
That’s right, the “Love Chapter” is really a rebuke—a reprimand, a scold, and a serious talking to!
Loveless-ness was a root spiritual problem in the Corinthian church.
The church members had failed in love, over and over.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.”
It’s as if Paul is saying, “Oh, church members, you have failed—sometimes spectacularly—at acting out the true meaning of love. You’ve shown yourselves to be jealous, bragging, puffed up and self-absorbed to a ridiculous degree. You’ve been total Love Flops…..”
Oh friends, may we not make the same mistake.