Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16.14.
This is probably the shortest text I’ve ever been given to think about and comment on in these morning blogs; and I nearly ducked it on the grounds that yesterday’s blog was all about love too. But I keep being pulled back so forcefully to this little closing exhortation of Paul to the Christians in Corinth that I know I need to stick with it.
What does the “in” mean? is my first question. Am I being told how I must do what I do, or why I must do what I do, or with what I must do what I do? Surely all three. Love is to be my method, my motive and my means. But once I acknowledge that, it becomes obvious, of course, why the Lord so wants me to take this verse to heart — because love is far from being the method, motive and means of all that I do.
I do some things out of duty. In an hour or two’s time I will be travelling twenty miles to visit my ninety year-old mother in her residential home. She hardly knows me and cannot grasp anything I say to her, but I shall hold her hand and prattle on about everything I’ve been doing and what I have planned for the coming week, and then I shall drive home again. If I’m honest I don’t want to go, and I go because it is my duty; but this morning the Lord is saying: Go in love. Let love motivate you in going, love carry you there and back, love be the way you deal with the visit.
I do some things out of fear. When I stand up to speak or to lead in church on a Sunday I am usually nervous and afraid. Afraid of getting things wrong. Afraid of losing my place in my notes. Afraid of being clumsy and awkward. But the Lord is saying: Do it in love. Turn the focus from yourself to the brothers and sisters in front of you. Love them and want more than anything for them to be caught up in worship and to hear my word, and the fear will go. Let love motivate your preaching and leading, love carry you to church and back, love be the way you preach and lead.
I do some things out of resentment. I have accountancy work to do from time to time that I find tedious and boring. I do it to produce an income but I often turn to it with reluctance and wish I were doing something else. But again the message is loud and clear: Do it in love. Love the people for whom you are doing the work. Love the beauty of numbers, of accuracy, of things that balance and reconcile. Love the exercise of God-given skills honed by years of training and experience. Let love motivate your accounting, love carry you through the job to completion, love be the way you add, subtract, and assemble your figures.
I will stop there, though there are other things, apart from love, in which I sometimes do what I do — pride and anger, to name just two. But by the Spirit’s power, today it will be different. Today, love is to be my motive, my method and my means. For as Paul reminded me earlier in this letter …
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).
Lord Jesus, so fill me with your Spirit this day that I will do all that I do in love. Amen.