CALL TO PRAYER: Love, the more excellent way
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press is carrying columns during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs in petitioning the Father for spiritual awakening.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1) is a double-edged sword! It strikes at us. And it strikes through us.
Each person falls prey to one particular temptation more easily than any other. And, when we yield to temptation, we often project the basest motives of our own hearts -- those things we despise within ourselves and struggle to submit to the Lordship of Christ -- to the motives of others, judging them by our own weaknesses.
Thus, for example, if I battle a critical spirit (sin striking at me), I project that someone else is a critical person (sin striking through me).
If I struggle with envy (sin striking at me), I assume a key leader is only in it for the money (sin striking through me).
If I have a low self-image (sin striking at me), I perceive a fellow minister of the Gospel looks down on me (sin striking through me).
If I battle pride (sin striking at me), I view anyone who disagrees with me on any matter as haughty and arrogant (sin striking through me).
It is the natural way of things to be this way. But, it is not the supernatural way of things. The redemptive work of Christ is not confined merely to securing my eternal destiny. The Lord is involved in transforming my life in every respect, beginning at the core of my character and radiating outward. It is His redemptive plan to redeem me from sin, from Satan and ... from self!
An intriguing quatrain from the love chapter says, "[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7 HCSB, ESV, NASB, NKJV, RSV).
Other translations and paraphrases expand the four phrases. The NIV puts it this way: "[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Phillips' translation says, "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything." The Good News Bible states, "Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail." The Message declares, "[Love] trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end."
The most expansive paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:7 comes from the Living Bible: "If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him."
I was recently involved in a prayer gathering, entreating the Lord for spiritual awakening and revival in our nation. As we prayed, person after person lamented the apparent lack of love for the brethren within Christian circles.
As we prayed, it dawned on me that our apparent lack of love may be traced to our besetting sin. Simply put, we don't believe in each other, especially those who are not in our closest circle of friends. We don't expect the best of one another, especially those in more visible roles of influence. We don't stand our ground in defending one another, especially when a fellow believer takes a strong stand on a crucial issue. We project upon them the motivations we despise within ourselves and determine they are not worthy of our trust.
The besetting sins striking at us and through us are destroying our unity in Christ, dismantling cooperation with fellow believers, diminishing our impact in our local communities, and diluting our witness to a watching world.
We know Scripture states, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony" (Psalm 133:1). Yet, too often, our relationships are more marked by discord and disharmony than by unity.
Christmas is about God's gift -- the gift of His Son, the gift of redemptive mercy and grace, the gift of a transformed life through Christ. He has poured out His Spirit upon us and placed the Spirit of His Son within us. What a marvelous, undeserved gift!
As our gift back to the Father, let's make this Christmas a time of genuine repentance. Let us pray that we will love one another with a fervent love. Let us confess the sin which so easily ensnares us, asking the Father to overshadow it with His manifest presence in our lives. Let us pray that we will believe in one another, expect the best of one another, and stand our ground in defending one another.
Love is the more excellent way. It truly does cover a multitude of sins.
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee and executive editor of the Executive Committee's journal SBC LIFE (www.sbclife.org). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).