What went wrong? What could have been prevented, and how? How could—or did—others help make things right, even if it wasn’t their fault? Would you give that place another chance? Why or why not?
The fact is, we all mess up from time to time—even when we’re genuinely trying serve others. And as we begin to take our spiritual gifts and passions and venture out into the unknown, it’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll fail on occasion. But part of moving forward—maybe the biggest part—is how we respond to those failures, because it reveals a lot about what our motivations really are. If we’re simply trying to fulfill a task, make ourselves look good, or save face, we’ll usually end up looking more like those “servants” who gave us all such memorably bad meals.
So let’s explore further. You might be able to recite the second half of the following passage by heart, but let’s also see what leads into it:
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3, ESV).
• Think about a time when you did all the right things for someone, but not in a loving way. What were the results?
• What would you do differently if you had another chance?
• Go back to verse 27, and reflect once more on your dining experience. Why is it important to “pick each other up” rather than leave others to fend for themselves? What are some of the challenges in doing that?
As Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it.” So let’s look more at how the love of Jesus can spill over into every other part of our lives—and into others’ lives as well.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything (1 John 3:16-20, ESV).
• How does John’s command to “give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” make you feel? Challenged? Frightened? Overwhelmed? Something else?
• Regardless of your reaction, why is it still important to do it?
• Think of someone you’ve had a particularly hard time showing Jesus’ love to. What’s one practical way you could “give up your life” for that person?
Since it’s Christmastime, let’s cut to that classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Go here, move the counter to 5:13, and let it rip. Afterward, reflect on these questions:
• When has love given you the strength to do things you couldn’t have done otherwise?
• What would other people see if your heart “grew three times”?
Now, let’s circle back to the remainder of Paul’s description of what love in action looks like:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:4-13, ESV).
Think about the things you’re passionate about. What gets you excited? Who’s God given you the biggest heart for? What can’t you imagine not being able to do? Think about the one thing that’s most important to you right now, then take yourself out of the equation—imagine someone else doing it—and think about this: What would love in action look like in that situation, or with that person or persons, you’re thinking about right now?
Now, go ahead and insert yourself back into your situation, and think about this:
• Realistically—not ideally—what would your love in action in that situation look like? What, if anything, needs to change?
• Who could help you bring more love into that situation or relationship, either by coming alongside you or by his or her example?
Ask God to help you gain a deeper appreciation of His love for you, and that as you understand God’s love more deeply, you’ll know how to show the love of Jesus to those you care most about. And to all, a good night. 🙂