Love, Love, Love

love1 Corinthians 13

If I speak every language, whether human or divine, but don’t speak the language of love, it’s empty talk. If I can tell it like it really is, and I’ve solved life’s problems and really do know it all, and if I’m focused enough to move mountains, but don’t know how to love, I’m just a charade. If I give up everything, my possessions, even my life, so I can feel good about myself rather than because I really care, it’s a hollow gift.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t a black hole of need. Love doesn’t brag. Love isn’t crass. Love isn’t about getting one’s own way. Love isn’t grouchy. Love doesn’t run a tab. Love grieves falsehood, but rejoices in truth. Love carries everything, believes in everyone, hopes for everything, and survives through anything. Love lasts forever.

Predictions about the future will run out of time. Languages will run out of words. Encyclopedias will run out of information. Everything we know is a drop in a bucket, and everything we predict is merely a guess. But when it’s all said and done, there is no more guessing.

When I was a kid, I thought like a kid and I dealt with things like kids do. But then I grew up and I stopped acting like a kid. We see life through frosted glass, but someday things will be clearer. We make guesses now, but someday we’ll really know because we’ll have let someone really know us.

Faith, hope and love are the three universal constants. But love is the one to rule them all.

Love, Love, Love. 1,2,3.

  1. Love who you are.
  2. Love what you do.
  3. Love everyone you meet.

Difficult? Yes. But the Beetles really did have it right: “Love is all you need.”

2 Keys to Individual and Organizational Revival

Tuned Out1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Here’s something I don’t approve of one bit. When you get together you don’t share. When you go to church, I hear, some of you won’t even talk to others of you. I can’t say I’m surprised to hear it. You seem to be more concerned with posturing than being authentic. So you’re really only pretending to be a church. Each of you does your own thing without any consideration for anyone else. Take care of your own business at home, and stop insulting God and humiliating everyone else at church. What am I supposed to say about that kind of behavior? That it’s good? Hell no, it’s not good.

The Corinthian church was an utterly dysfunctional institution. Chances are, if you’ve been involved in a dysfunctional church you can identify first hand things in common. But human as churches are, you can find the same patterns in just about any dysfunctional institution.

The bottom line is that no institution can accomplish what it is supposed to (doesn’t matter what the stated purpose is or if it’s a church, a Rotary club, a teachers’ union, a fortune 500 company, or even a nation) so long as the people in it are more concerned with their own personal agenda than they are with the greater good the institution is supposed to achieve.

But Paul’s suggestion, implicit in his scolding, is that the way forward depends on individuals (and not necessarily the formal leaders, either) taking responsibility for

  1. being authentic – which means at least in part, being up front with yourself and others about who you really are and what you’re real interest in the greater good is, and
  2. being aware of the needs of people other than themselves – whether they are on your side in the institution’s politics or not.

It’s not too big a leap to imagine that authentic and aware institutions and organizations, the ones that are really making a positive impact on the world around them, are made up of authentic and aware individuals.

And it’s also not too hard to guess that being a part of an authentic, aware, and meaningful community is only really possible to the degree that one is aware of one’s own authenticity in relation to others. It’s self-selecting. And it starts with you.

So, the way forward: know thyself and give a damn about someone nearby.

Should You Eat the Caviar?

Photo credit: Bill Holmes

1 Corinthians 10:27-31

If someone invites you to dinner, and you decide to go, eat what they put in front of you. But, if they tell you how they bought the caviar under the table, then excuse yourself as a matter of conscience, not yours so much as theirs. Of course, caviar is caviar no matter how they got it. But if you eat it, they’ll think you condone their misbehavior. If they didn’t make an issue of it, it wouldn’t be an issue. But whatever you do, be known for doing what’s right.

It’s about the company you keep.

And it’s about assuming the best of people, unless they give you a reason to know the worst.

It’s not your business to pry, but it is your obligation to do what’s right based on what you know.

If you don’t then it goes from being a matter on their conscience to being a matter on yours.

Just saying…

Do the Right Thing

Do Not Push Button1 Corinthians 10:6-13

What happened with them goes to show us how not to make the same mistakes:

Don’t sell yourselves to false gods like they did. Remember the story about how they had a gluttonous orgy. 23,000 people died because of that. Don’t demand that Jesus cater to your whims like they did. It ended up with a lot of people dying of snakebites. Don’t be constant complainers like they were. It was a path of senseless destruction.

Like I said, these stories were written down so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past when it seems to us as if the world’s coming to an end. So when you think everything is going well, watch out not to get tripped up. Your troubles aren’t much different from anyone else’s. God won’t give you more than you can handle. Remember, the nature of temptation is that there is always a right way and a wrong way.

I’ve heard this phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” misused by well-intentioned people to say that real hardship and tragedy isn’t really so bad. “Suck it up,” they say. “If you weren’t able to handle it, God wouldn’t have let it happen.” Hogwash!

A hurricane blows in. An earthquake happens. A wildfire burns. Life happens. We don’t get any choice about a lot of things. Sometimes they are terrible things. Without ever having smoked a cigarette you get cancer. These are not God things, they’re life things. And they happen whether you’re Christian or not. They happen whether we’re “good” or “bad.” Sometimes we survive them, and sometimes we don’t. It’s not about deserving or handling.

But Paul is writing about temptation, not about bad things happening out of the blue. And that’s something we all have to deal with every day. Every temptation involves a choice. If there wasn’t really a decision involved, it wouldn’t be a temptation. Plain and simple. And there are lots of stories (Paul’s come from the Exodus) that serve as lessons about choosing wisely (and the hazards of choosing foolishly).

Paul’s suggestion from the Exodus story is that when you feel like the world is falling apart, three things are essential:

  1. being true to yourself and what you, at your core, believe (instead of numbing yourself with food and sex),
  2. taking responsibility (instead of waiting for someone else to do what you’re responsible for and then blaming them when it doesn’t happen), and
  3. doing something (instead of bringing others down with complaining and nit-picking).

But the world doesn’t have to be falling apart for these things to be important. Temptations come every day. Do your best work, or piddle about on Facebook. Spend quality time with your spouse, or play yet another hand of solitaire. Pass the buck to the person at the next desk, or do your job. You get the picture. It’s always choosing. And with each choice, you wouldn’t be at that particular juncture – it wouldn’t be a juncture – unless you were really capable of making the right decision about it. This is what Paul means by, “It’s not more than you can handle.”

Either way, it’s up to you.

Do the right thing.