Tag Archive: 1 corinthians 13


as i stand so close to the flames

that the tiny hairs on my arms start to catch alight

filling my nostrils with that pungent, burning hair smell

i catch the silhouette of my reflected outline

quietly nodding my silent assent

to those who by their righteous actions tonight

have ensured that this clinic’s business

for the immediate future at least

has been violently aborted

 

as i stand to the far edge of the back of this lively and passionate crowd

i am caught up by the exuberance with which our leaders

are delivering today’s heartfelt message of righteous anger and God’s judgment

on those who would exchange normal relations

for these abominations

not quite confident that God does indeed hate fags as has been so eloquently declared

through the intimacy of a well-intended loud speaker

or the letters lovingly painted onto an otherwise pure white poster

i at least choose to hold my focus

on all those who will be set free

as a result of us gaily presenting our well-crafted sermon

as we came out here today

Lovingly Gesturing Biblical Truths

 

back at home i spend some time online

catching up on the news

all the time dodging the vitriolic and caustic comments

of fellow christian brothers and sisters

resolutely aligning themselves with either camp

and how could you possibly hold THAT opinion

if you have given any attention at all to THIS specific verse?

(“You fool!”… understood.)

 

another moment, yet another person caught in a crime

this time i bend down to pick up my stone

but am stopped in my tracks

by the sound of his voice

speaking these words

so lovingly

‘let the person who is without sin throw the first stone.’

 

and i pause for just a minute

 

as i think it over to myself…

a ticking watch nervously counts down this moment of interruption

my heavy breathing bears testimony to the wrestling that’s going on within my head

as i roll his words around in my mind, this way and that way, looking for the answer

but then suddenly it comes to me in a flash

as i remember that he has already paid for my sin

when he died on the cross

he took all my guilt and shame

and the sin penalty that should have been mine to pay

and he paid for it in my place

and so that makes me sin-free, right?

 

that makes me the one able to throw the first stone…

just like he said.

 

my hand finds a suitably jagged edged piece of stone

closes tightly around it

i can feel its rough edges digging into my skin

i stand to my feet in a single motion

powered up by all the holy righteous anger i can muster

and with every muscle in my body giving assent to my actions

i hurl that stone with all my might and watch as it hits its target

watch as you slump quickly to the ground

 

and, as if the dam wall has been burst

i watch as my just action unleashes the rest of the frenzied crowd

some who had already started to let their personalised rocks fall to the ground

 

again and again the rocks smash against their intended victim

your cries have long since passed

blood and bits of skin and bone fly hideously around

and within moments you are no longer a person

but a grotesque mass of broken body and blood

 

broken body

and blood?

 

as if in a pitch black tunnel just noticing a faint hint of a light up ahead

something starts to swirl within my mind

a recollection, a mass of thoughts, something is trying to be heard

and i try to focus in on what is being said, as my stomach fights against gagging from the smell that is rising up from your body

your dead body

broken by me… broken for me?

no, broken by me.

 

i glance up.

struggling to see clearly with these beams of wood protruding from each one of my eyes

i manage to finally catch a glimpse of him

his face displaying so obviously that this is not the way he was hoping it would end

as if something has gone wrong

gone horribly wrong

but what is it? i did what you said. i did what you have to have wanted. right?

 

and there it is

off to the side, faint and very much in the distance

but there is no mistaking the call of the farm bird sounding the beginning of a new day

or is it the end of one?

nope, there it is again.

and one more time.

 

i realise that the first crow has labelled me a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal

the second told me i am nothing

the third plays out that i have gained nothing

all three signifying that i have failed in this,

in this, my virtuous enacting of your justice

and if that is true, if i have failed in this

that surely means that no part of this was truly Love

 

what is the first commandment? obey the rules

what is the most important? don’t step outside of the lines

what is the gospel? don’t do this long and complicated list of things

GODHATESFAGSGODHATESPEOPLEWHOHAVEABORTIONSGODHATESTERRORISTSGODHATES

wait, what?

 

 

 

 

i stand close to the flames

trying to massage some warmth back into my hands

no-one needs to come up to me and ask if i know Him?

i know my actions have already answered that one

and as i catch my reflection in a nearby piece of glass

i notice the flames, licking at my feet.

 

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‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ [Ephesians 4.11-16]

that is a rather long passage, but i do generally like to give context for a verse i want to use and i felt like this whole passage sums up this part of the message that i want to take from the anonymous email i received a week ago.

so this is the portion of the email i am going to be looking at now:

‘Brett-boy, you need to rethink how you spend your energy.
And here I’m speaking in particular about the humor side of your energy. To take an example: Brett, let’s be honest: your youtube videos suck. Big time. And I don’t even see the purpose in it. Will you really stand before the Jesus one day and when He asks you “So how did you spend your valuable time?” answer “Well, there are these youtube videos I made.”’

this is both a simple concept and a difficult one to get right [perhaps these are all so easy for me to blog about as i have lots of experience in the getting-it-wrong department in days gone by] but the idea mentioned in the Ephesians passage is of ‘speaking the truth in love’ with the intended purpose being that ‘we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’

this point seems to almost precede the point of the message. a question one needs to ask when challenging someone else about something is, ‘Am I right? Is this thing, that I am about to speak to that person, the Truth?’ Once I have ascertained that I am speaking Truth to them, it seems to be so very important that I get the ‘in Love’ part of the delivery of my message right, otherwise to some extent the Truth is invalidated. Was it Truthful? Yes. Did I speak it in Love? No, well then the whole message is lost!

truth-in-love-300x270

Why is this so important? Well Jesus has set it out for us so clearly: When asked what the greatest commandment in the law is, ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22.37-40]

so the end point is always Love. and until i can get that part right, then it might be better for me to hold my tongue. the Ephesians passage reminds us that the intended consequence of speaking the Truth in Love is that the whole body will be built up and so that each person will be able to do the job required of them. this is vital, crucial stuff here.

i really believe that one of the largest travesties of the church for so long has been that those who ‘get the Truth’ and speak it, so often don’t have the Love to accompany it, and so much damage is done. but it goes further than that because i also strongly believe that too often those who ‘get the Love’ part of the Gospel, so often refrain from speaking the Truth. and damage is done both ways. we confuse ‘being Love-filled’ with not challenging people or confronting sin when it needs to happen [but in Love]. we mistake ‘being nice’ with ‘being Loving’ and that too can have terrible consequences.

BRINGING IT BACK TO WHAT IT’S ABOUT

so if my anonymous friend was wanting to do a better thing, how could that have happened?

to me, ‘Brett-boy’ sounds very condescending – that might not have been intended, but simply using ‘Brett’ would have done the trick.

‘let’s be honest – your videos suck’ could have perhaps been a more personal ‘i must be honest, i don’t really think your videos are all that great’ which at least removes some of the sting and personalises the opinion instead of proclaiming a statement of truth.

and i have already spoken a little bit into ‘And I don’t even see the purpose in it’ which could have been posted as a question such as,’I’d be interested to hear the reason behind why you make these videos?’

are any of these hugely malicious things? not at all – but out there in the world, and sadly too often in the church, there are examples that happen all the time that are way more hurtful and display a complete lack of Love and it is those that i am wanting to speak into.

the writer to the Corinthians didn’t seem to think Truth counted all that much [or anything else for that matter] if Love was not a huge part of the message both in word and deed:

‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ [1 Corinthians 13.1-3]

having hard Truth spoken to you in Love doesn’t always mean it is easy to hear. but it definitely becomes a lot easier to hear and if i walk away from you completely convinced that you Love me, then i am so much more likely to take some more time in considering the words of Truth you have spoken to me, even if i did not receive them well in the moment.

what’s your experience been in hearing hard Truth from people spoken in Love?
and i suppose the more painful question of, is this ringing any bell for you of times when you may have spoken well-meaning Truth but with a lack of the much-needed Love?

[to read on about receiving the rebuke you send click here]

To take an example: Brett, let’s be honest: your youtube videos suck. Big time. And I don’t even see the purpose in it.

i am continuing with my response to the ‘a nonny miss?’ email i received, because i feel there are a bunch of things to be learned from it, which relate far beyond this simple email.

the second part i want to look at is specifically that line ‘And I don’t even see the purpose in it.’ – now i really only want to use the email as a launching point because i think this point goes much deeper than the silly you tube videos i sometimes make, so let’s forget the videos and take a step back from our lives and look at them through this lens. because i think this is something i have been guilty of in the past and probably still get wrong, but have definitely observed myself getting a whole lot better at it as i get older…

so the launch point is this – someone saw something i did, didn’t understand the purpose of it and so formed a judgement and then acted on that judgement.

sound familiar yet? anyone else out there cringing just a little.

i just returned from a visit to one of my best friends, dreadlocked Mike [who was part of the duo who helped give me dreads two years ago!] and it was so good seeing him and getting to hang with him again. and to be reminded of this incredible gift that Mike has…

Mike has this amazing ability to make a strong statement about something – eg. Clowns suck! [i don’t think he thinks that] – and then when i jump in and agree with him – “You’re so right Mike, clowns are evil!” [they’re not! well, most of them] he will spend the next thirty minutes trying to convince me why clowns don’t suck and are in fact amazing.

Yes, it can be frustrating and seem hypocritical at times, but what i have witnessed through it is Mike’s ability to really put himself on both sides of an argument [especially one he feels quite strongly about] and argue the merits of both sides. I think that later he weighs it all and hopefully takes into account what i have added and comes up with a refined opinion on the matter, but i really think it can be a powerful thing in terms of being able to, to some extent, understand the reasons behind an opposing view point.

perspective

how many of us can do that? i’m not talking about agreeing with someone you disagree with. i’m talking about taking the time [and humility] to try and hear or see things the way they are. who knows? it may end up changing your opinion or mind about something… although more often than not it may just help you understand why you see things the way you do so much more strongly.

i think the older i get the less i feel i KNOW [for absolute sure fact real] but the things i do KNOW i feel i know so much more strongly and believe more deeply. i have an insane amount of incredible people in and around my life and they keep me sharpened in so may areas and i am so grateful. people who take time to move beyond the superficial and really wrestle with life and faith and relationships and poverty and world transformation and the current form of Graeme Smith.

so i made some silly videos. someone saw that and came up with an opinion and then challenged me about them [which i Love, but we’ll get to that later] but he never took time to ask me, ‘So why do you make those videos? Is there a reason?’ and so he may never know [altho i imagine i will mention it sometime during these]

the asking of that simple question, ‘Why did you do that?’ or similar ones like, ‘Why do you think that?’ ‘How come you do things that way?’can be a powerful relationship builder. You don’t have to agree with the person’s response, but it is helpful to know it.

my challenge with this post is for you to ask someone a question this week [and i would LOVE it if you came back here and gave feedback in the comments] about something you don’t understand [that they do or think or feel] – someone from a different religion [why do you pay five times a day?] or cultural group [what does family look like to you?], perhaps it could be a close friend [what is your practice in terms of saving money?] or someone in the office or school [what do you like about that particular band or song or sport?] or a hundred other things. but be on the look out for something that doesn’t make sense to you and even maybe something you have a strong opinion about and simply ask the question in a non-threatening way, and take time to really listen to their response. maybe it will prompt a question in response… maybe it will strengthen relationship… perhaps it will simply inspire a moment of, ‘Wow, i never saw it that way.’

1 Corinthians 13.7 ends with ‘[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ and i really love that – this feels like an aspect of Love hoping – that the person i don’t understand is not simply an idiot who has chosen an opposing view to mine, but someone who i can learn from and be encouraged by and build relationship with.

[to continue to the next post springboarded from this mail about ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’ go here]

1 Corinthians 13.7 says ‘It [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

this Corinthians description of Love is a huge one and is one of the most quoted Christian passages at weddings and i really do love it – what stands out for me is that the Love described here is very different to what the world suggests in terms of feeling and passion and sex, but the Love mentioned here has largely to do with choice. the passage starts off with ‘Love is patient’ which is an easy one to critique because i seldom feel like being patient and Morgan Freedman’s God in Evan Almighty nails it when he is speaking to Evan’s wife Joan and says, “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?”

and so that follows through the whole list, but for me this last phrase has always held special meaning for me – it feels like a really powerful description of the positive description of what Love is and can be and feels like it builds this growing momentum as it hits you with the force of ‘It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

the word ‘always’ is the key thing – it doesn’t suggest that this is something Love might choose to do on occasion – it commands that this is the D.N.A. of true Love – that it will ALWAYS protect and ALWAYS trust, ALWAYS hope and ALWAYS persevere! This is a definitive statement.

and so focusing on the ‘Trust’ aspect, the idea of a lighthouse on the rocks surrounded by raging waters came immediately to mind because that captures the heart of the ‘without wavering’ aspect of Love. Trust feel like an easy thing to give someone but it is an incredibly difficult thing to regain once it is lost.

so it is really essential that it stays firm. you can’t half Trust someone. for Trust to be real and effective it really is a case of flinging yourself out completely [with no support harness] and believing that the other person has you.

it also needs to be demonstrated this way – if i am constantly questioning and second guessing and checking motives, then my words and actions can quickly deny the Trust i say i have in someone…

as i seek to be someone who Trusts without Wavering, may my words and actions always stand me firm as someone who is trustworthy and worth believing in, in a way that makes it easy for people to let go and jump towards me with full knowledge that i will not let them fall.

how have you found this aspect of Love playing out in life?

to look at forgiving without punishing, go here.

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