“Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)
As somebody who is constantly categorised as somebody who is level-minded, task-oriented, a new revelation of the loving side of God came as a blast of a surprise. To some of you, this message is old and is taken as granted. However for me, as somebody who loves rules and loves the comfort of guidelines, manuals and directions, I have always tend to appreciate that God is a just and fair God.
I grew up under the leadership of my father who appreciated my intelligence and my performance at school. Whilst my brothers in their defiance had ever felt Mum or Dad’s tough love, I pretty much sailed through my childhood scot-free. This also applied to some of my sisters who also found favour in my Dad’s eyes. Unconsciously, coupled with my rule-loving, logic-ruled nature, I grew up with a belief that if I stick to the rules and regulations, I should be fine. The rules that A should lead to B if all of the conditions are met, also apply to my thinking. That is also why that I tend to get annoyed when people don’t follow rules – whenever I see somebody driving on the street exceeding the speed limit even only by a fraction, I would get annoyed by that – that they don’t follow the rules.
At church, a couple of months ago, in the attempt to set some rules and regulations, I established a new set of rules that seemed fair. Previously, those who are on the ministry team are expected to also attend the weekly prayer meeting. However, with regularly low attendance level, I set the rules that if some didn’t attend the weekly prayer meetings four times in a row, they would not be scheduled in the following month. In my mind, I thought that surely once a month was not a burden at all – and that the rule is a fair way to go, that those ministering are also those who are praying and seeking God.
In my attempt to set the rules, I focused on the just and fair side of God. Although I did pray and hesitated before I sent the email to my friends, I believed that it was a good step at the time. Now I know that God allowed me to make the mistake, so I can learn my lessons on the other side of His character – that He is a God of love and mercy. More on that later.
The email that I sent caused a ripple through my friends – some were adamant that they should not be bossed around, and that I was acting like a Pharisee. It caused me to be mentally and spiritually weary – the rule had caused a chasm in my friendships with those at church. I was pretty close to calling it quits – thinking that my friends were so childish and that they couldn’t see my good intentions and the benefit in following the rules.
In my soul searching period, something hit me hard. A very personal message got me deep and touched my tender spot. God reminded me that He is also a God of mercy and love. He reminded me that I also constantly broke His rules and the rules that I made to myself – and yet, He loves me just the same. He continues to call me to do His ministry. Then the question came through – how come that I can’t apply the same grace to my friends? He is the one in charge of their character and personality building – not I. I am called to love them unconditionally, and not to be a traffic policeman. I am reminded of what is written in 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (NLT). I should extend God’s grace to them as well, and just love them – as love covers a multitude of their weaknesses and faults, including my own. Although I don’t deserve it, God continues to love and bless me. It’s not because He is just, and that I have fulfilled all of the requirements – it’s because He is a merciful God who is full of grace.
Perhaps this is why there are so many people who are so disillusioned with churches and Christians in general. We are big in rules and regulations, but very little in love. This doesn’t mean that Christians and churches should not have any order, instructions or legislation – it simply means that when they are formulated, they should be built on the foundation of love.
When someday, we meet God face to face – Faith will remain, but it has fulfilled its main task, to be the firm and solid ground for our believe to see God. Hope will also remain, but it will also have its goal fulfilled when we meet Him and receive what we hope for. However, Love will remain and will be the greatest of all.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NLT)