Read: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
I forget almost every time it happens, and it occurred again this week. My husband and I had the TV on, and it went quiet. I asked him what had happened to the sound, and it didn't take long before I knew. That moment of silence was followed by a noise that made me jump. There is no mistaking the sound that jolts me every time I hear it. That loud piercing sound that comes out seemingly twice as loud as the previous program. Oh, that's right. It was, once again, time to test the emergency signal that would, if necessary, warn us that there is a storm or other disaster in the area. Yes, I know it is meant to get our attention, and it certainly accomplishes that goal. That is a good and important thing, but that loud unpleasant noise affects me like fingernails on a chalkboard, and I'm always relieved when it stops.
As I considered that useful but unpleasant noise, my mind turned toward the Lord's words through the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Here we have strong words that describe laudable actions that are sometimes negated because they aren't done with biblical love. This love looks so different than the conditional love that is frequently on display all around us. The description we see in these verses speaks of acts that picture sacrifice but lack the sweetness of love, and one of the descriptions of actions without love is an unpleasant noise. Perhaps like the one that grates in my ears whenever I hear it. Oh, to think that some of my actions are that unpleasant in God's eyes. We will come back to that point to see the remedy we have been given.
God's ways are so different than the world's, aren't they? Man is so easily impressed with the outer actions, but God sees how and why those actions were done. When we use our gifts for Jesus, and when we act out of biblical love, it pleases God. For example, this week I listened to a chaplain who goes into nursing homes with the desire that the residents might know Jesus' saving love. He reaches out to them in friendship with the desire that they will take Jesus' hand and begin a relationship with Him as their Lord and Savior. Here is one of this gentleman's stories. One day, as he was doing a Bible study at the nursing home, a nurse asked that he visit a Jewish gentleman who wanted to see a pastor. This was the beginning of many times together for these two men. The man who had requested a visit was merely looking for intelligent conversation, and he was sarcastic and difficult to deal with. Even so, the chaplain continued to come to talk with him each week. One day, the resident was moved to a room right near where the chaplain held his Bible study. I wonder Who arranged those circumstances, Psalm 115:3? He could hear all that was said each time the scriptures were opened. It took many more weeks, but in God's sweet timing, this formerly contrary gentleman asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior, and the chaplain had many weeks to enjoy watching Jesus' work in his life. This precious Jewish man even began wearing a cross. An action that displayed his changed heart, 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26. The Lord gave this chaplain a special final time of fellowship with the new convert before he went home to heaven.
What a picture of biblical love. Love shining with patience and kindness when surliness and unpleasantness might have been the expected responses. The sweet sound of love came pouring out. No noisy ear-shattering sounds. Instead love that looked a great deal like God's unconditional love. After all, isn't that the way Jesus loved us prior to our having given our lives to Him, Romans 5:6-10! There was nothing that we did to earn His love, but His arms were open to us, Romans 10:20-21, even while we weren't seeking Him. He showered us with His kindness when we didn't yet acknowledge Him. Oh, the beautiful gifts He gave us like laughter, friends and the beauty of creation. Kindnesses lavished upon us when we didn't know the source of those good gifts, James 1:17. His patience towards us kept us alive until we were born anew, John 3:3.
Even so, in spite of the way God has loved us, we often fail to show others a picture of what He has done; so, let's return to the times when our love sounds like unpleasant noise. How thankful I am that this 1 Corinthians 13 love is perfectly demonstrated and displayed through the Savior Who has chosen to express His life through each of us who have received Him, John 1:11-12; Galatians 2:20. How amazing it is that when I lack patience, kindness or any of the other descriptions of what biblical love is and is not, I can ask Jesus to express these qualities through my life. When I am tempted to act in an unbecoming way, I can cry out for His help to do whatever shows His love. When my attitudes are not demonstrating biblical love, I can call out for the Savior's point of view and strength. When I have expressed myself like that annoying loud sound, I can ask for His cleansing and enabling to react differently next time, 1 John 1:9.
Back to that chaplain. The beautiful thing about the biblical love that he expressed is that God would have been honored even if the gentleman he reached out to had never been made new. Oh, I know that isn't the way we want any story to end; even so, when we reach out in biblical love, Jesus is glorified, no matter what happens here on earth. He is pleased with the sweet sound of love.