SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published in Vision Week in autumn 2019.
Hi everyone, it’s Mick here and welcome to Friday’s Podcast in Vision Week here at STC. Our vision for 2020 is ‘Join Us for the Better Life’ and every day this week our Bible reflections have considered key foundations of the Better Life Jesus brings. Monday, we asked what is the Better Life? Tuesday, how we use our time; Wednesday, how we use our money. Yesterday, how we view our work and today, love … the very bedrock of this Better Life.
Two familiar Bible readings today – the first is the call of Jesus to his Better Life; the second how this new life is worked out in our everyday busy lives in the use of our time, money, work etc.
First, these amazing words of Jesus in John’s gospel:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
This was the Bible verse that the Lord used to draw me to him many years ago. Christian friends took us to their church and I heard the Vicar say this in ‘his speech’ – only later did I realise this was called a sermon. That’s what happens when you have no church background! This became such a key scripture for ongoing ministry – helping people understand that there is a Better Life with Jesus.
Our second Bible reading unpacks what is that heart of this Better Life … love. Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth called its readers to re-examine their lives as individuals and as a church community – to see if love is at the centre of who they are and the power behind all they do.
The description of love in these verses is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. The writer, Paul, places it in the middle of his teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ and describing the importance of these gifts for the church to be healthy. Paul is saying that God’s gifts are so important but love is even more important, in fact in v31 of chapter 12 he calls it ‘the most excellent way’. He says to the people then and to us today that everything we do should be done in love. So what is this ‘love’?
Paul then lists sixteen characteristics of love in verses 4 – 8a; I’m going to read them now from The Message Bible:
Love never gives up
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first”,
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
It takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end
Love never dies.
Every time I read these verses I am challenged – this is love shown in the life of Jesus; this is the life I am called to live. Every day I fall short but every day, by God’s grace, through his Holy Spirit and with my intent (you need all three!) I grow in his life of love a little more. Just imagine if these amazing verses were constantly read, learnt and practised in homes our homes, schools, workplaces … what a different world we would live in!
A few weeks ago Tricia and I were at a conference at which we heard a young man give a moving testimony of his life with Jesus. He told how he had spend some of his early life hiding in the cupboard under the stairs to escape violence in his home. After such a beginning it was no wonder his life went off the rails involving crime, violence and drugs. Jesus broke into his life in a truly amazing way and he said this: ‘All I want to do now is talk about love. How Jesus is love and how he changes lives’. The gathered group of senior church leaders were moved to tears – including us!
Love is permanent – everything else is temporary. The older I get and the longer I have been following Jesus, the more I understand that the greatest thing in the world is love. Sacrificial, you-before-me, how can I help, refreshingly kind, extravagantly generous, love. Paul ends this great chapter with these words in verse 13: ‘Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly – and the best of the three is love.’
Lord, we so need your love in our world today. Help me to draw close to you this Vision weekend and over these next weeks.As I commit my time, money and work to you may my love for you, my family and those I meet grow as I learn to live your Better Life. Lord, let love be the goal of my life. Amen.