1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
When I was a young Christian, I loved reading the Bible. These verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 13 were some of my favorites. I really tried to live up to them because I felt that’s what my Father in heaven expected of me and I, as a good child of God, should be like this.
I failed miserably.
I had always read a little further (like Mike Williams always advises), but I never really paid attention to what Paul had said in summation to these verses.
As a baby, I cried and expected to be picked up or fed or my diaper to be changed. When I got a little older, I expected a spanking if I was bad or maybe a new toy if I was good. As I grew, I’d be disappointed if things didn’t turn out as I expected – maybe even feel sorry for myself. I expected people to love me, and if they didn’t show it the way I expected, it hurt and I had pity on myself. It’s all actually pretty normal for a child. However, couple childhood stages of growth with a religion of reward or punishment and that child will not grow up. The love that is in that child will never be set free.
I recently received a quote from Albert Einstein:
“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
It immediately resonated with me.
As a teenage fundamentalist Christian, the Bible I loved to read also became the measuring stick of life for me. I clung to the letter of the whole thing and it was killing me. I had expectations upon myself and others based on what it said was right and wrong – good and evil. I was partaking of the fruit of the other tree in the garden – the tree of knowledge of good and evil – the tree of DEATH!
Then came a day when I desperately wanted love and I was being blocked from it. Thanks to grace, I saw the truth. My mind, my expectations, my emotions were ruled by my beliefs and prevented me from becoming my own person…someone who could be loved or even hated. I had a decision to make. I could hold to this measuring stick of expectations, which now were obviously and ridiculously unrealistic upon myself and others in my life, or I could take charge of my heart and mind and stop this infliction of death upon my soul. No longer would I have expectations upon myself. No longer would I even consider consequences of my behavior or God’s judgment of my behavior or even that of another. No longer would I place expectations upon myself or another. I felt my brain turn from front to back in my skull. It’s like the sun came out in my mind.
I started loving myself and others unconditionally…just like in those verses in 1 Corinthians…for the first time in my life. I put away childish things. Then I remembered how Paul summed up those words I so tried to live up to:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
When I gave up expectations upon myself and others, I became responsible for my own soul and could nurture it. I had no expectations on others, yet was overwhelmed by the love and beauty I started to see in them. God! I saw God!
Like the Ecclesiastes preacher said. There is a season for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be a child. There is a time to grow up. There is a time to be nurtured by love. There is a time for love to say “Grow up!”