A Life of Love

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 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; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-6, 8, 13; ESV

“Paul was not giving us a list of do’s and don’ts in 1 Corinthians 13. He was rather describing what life in Christ, life in love, and/or life in the Spirit looks like. His purpose was not to get us to act different; his goal was to help us to be different. In telling us love is not rude, for example, Paul was giving us a flag to help us notice when we are acting out of love and when we are not – that is, when we are acting out of the old self and when we are acting out of the new. Paul’s behavioral injunctions are not things we are supposed to strive to perform, nor are they new universal ethical rules by which we are to try to motivate all people to live. They are evidence that disciples are participating in the abundant life Jesus came to give.

Similarly, when Paul told us that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23), he was not telling us to try to act loving, joyful, peaceful, and so on. If we could simply will these things into existence, they would hardly be the fruit of the Spirit. Paul was rather encouraging us to live by the Spirit, not the flesh (Galatians 5:16). He was pointing us to a radically new way of living, one that places God rather than ourselves as the center of our lives. He was helping us to get free from our spiritual pathology….

The New Testament is not about ethical behavior; it’s about a radical new way of living. It is about life lived in surrendered union to God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is about experiencing the transforming power of God’s love flowing into and through a person. It demands a form of holiness that is far more exacting than any ethical or religious system. It demands holiness of the heart that does not feed the fallen self by distancing itself from sinners but rather sacrifices itself to unite with sinners. This kind of holiness can never be achieved through behavior. It has to be received through grace. Jesus’ ministry… positions us to humbly receive this empowering and life-transforming grace.”

Boyd, Gregory A. Repenting of Religion – Turning from Judgement to the Love of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004. pp. 94, 96.

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