Grace and I were excited to get together! It was our annual trip to the local nursery to buy vegetable starts, meander through flats of annuals and perennials, and be amazed by the love and effort put into propagating seedlings.
The greenhouse sits at the East end of town. Nestled between the owners’ home, grazing land for their cows, a pond for ducks and geese, and an open range frequented by coyotes and wolves – a dream amid the Central Oregon desert.
The drive takes about 30 minutes, in one direction. Just enough time to catch up on family and mutual friends and unearth all the brokenness in the world.
We talked about lost loved ones. The devastation of a friend’s recent struggle. And just as we turned off the main road, our conversation shifted.
Our churches have been meeting in person for several months. They started small, just a few people, pre-registered, socially distant, and masked.
Attendance is increasing, pre-registration is on the decrease, distance is disappearing, and masks – they slide further from face to jacket pocket to non-existent.
Please don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a political debate or lecture you on the benefits or evils of the vaccine. But I am going to challenge you to consider this phenomenon.
“Have you noticed that some people have become more self-focused? There doesn’t seem to be any room for considering the needs of others. My pastor keeps encouraging our congregation to pre-register, maintain distance, and wear a mask. If not to protect themselves then surely to protect others. Yet, it seems that people are much more interested in their wants and needs.
It’s all about I, ME, and MINE.
I’m starting to wonder if the pandemic hasn’t made us…”
We turned onto the dirt and gravel road leading to the greenhouse and parked. The next hour was spent walking, imagining, and running through our mental wish lists. Finally, the green wagon was filled – baskets of gold, black-eyed Susan, and a beautiful rock-climbing vine, guaranteed to be the splash of color that adds that special punch.
We paid the owner, loaded our car, and drove back down the dusty road turning left towards home.
Our conversation picked up right where we left it.
“I’m starting to wonder if the pandemic hasn’t made us selfish. Everything has become so politically charged, racially motivated, COVID complicated. The longer we are isolated the more we focus on ourselves.
I get it but I don’t think that is what Jesus wants us to do. What happened to all those Bible verses about loving your neighbor, putting them before self, loving as Jesus loves?”
We spent the remainder of our drive wrestling with ideas on how to shift our selfish tendencies towards God’s love.
1 John 3: 16-18 reminds us,
This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.
The Message (MSG)
We negotiated our final turn before home and agreed…
Perhaps the answer to this ravenousness hunger of self is to
- Shift our focus from what we are sacrificing to what Jesus sacrificed – His life for our eternity
- Prioritize loving others over having our way
- Consider the outcome – love disappears when we ignore the needs of others
BeLOVED, let’s not get stuck in our wants. Instead, let’s take a risk and stop talking about love, and practice it – wear it like a favorite sweatshirt all soft and warm.
Let’s commit today to love as Jesus loves.
1 Corinthians 13 is considered the “love chapter.” Giving us a framework of how to live out love in our daily lives. Please take a few minutes to read the verses below and consider the questions that follow.
1 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. 2 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. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languagesand special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
New Living Translation
Take a few minutes to consider the following.
- According to verses 4-7, what should our love look like? How should it behave?
- Verse 12 tells us that three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love. Why is love the greatest?
- How can you better reflect God’s love through your attitudes and behaviors?