Have you ever run into a technical problem with your computer or device? One where you reach the limits of your knowledge trying to fix it and you finally break down and call technical support service for real help. In order to help you get your device back up and running, what do they do first? Well, after they tell you to turn it off and back on. They usually run a diagnostic of some sort. They test the system to see how it is running and try to see where the trouble pops up. What is the goal of this test? To bring the problems areas to the surface and highlight the issues that are preventing the device from working to its ful potential. Detecting the problem is essential for successfully fixing it. You cannot figure out how to repair a problem until you know what the problem is, right? Sometimes tech support gives you some bad news. It may take a lot of effort and a boatload of money to fix the problem. But it is always better getting challenging news than just staring at a blank screen in frustration.
The same need for diagnostic testing is true in our Christians lives. We cannot grow in areas that we are lacking or struggling with unless we are willing to discover the problem. And, yes, it also can also be a painful process. Who likes to deal with bad news? But if we understand just how much our tech support agent, God, wants to walk us through the repair we can run diagnostics with confidence. It is always better trying to fix it with God’s help rather than just being trapped by the problem.
Paul sets out a really great diagnostic test for us and our Christian walk in 1 Corinthians 13. Possibly the best known chapter of the Bible, it deals with love as the centerpoint of our faith in Jesus. Love is the high point of our life as a Christian. As Paul writes, if we have all of the other trappings and signs of Christianity in our lives but do not have love, we are nothing. We could give away everything we have to the poor and die as a martyr and if we are doing it for anything other than love, it is worthless. We are never doing it right if we don’t have love. It is a major system error of love is not there. Love is that important!
Given the emphasis that God places on love, it is the highest goal and essential to our faith, it makes sense that we should check to see how we are doing on a regular basis in this area. We don’t want to be like Martha who is so distracted by serving that she loses track of the love that is supposed to motivate and bring her service to life. We don’t want to be David who becomes so lost in lust that He loses track of love.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails.
We covered last week how this describes just how great our God is as God is love. However, just as Paul’s list is a good test for us as to whether we understand God’s nature, it can be helpful light under which to examine ourself. To check and see how we are doing on a spiritual maturity level, we can prayerfully ask how we are doing compared to the listed attributes.
Am I long suffering? Do I express love for others by being patient with them? As God is patient with us and our sin, are we patient with others? Do we write people off or rail at them for not changing fast enough/
Am I kind? Do I treat others like a parent treats a child or a teacher treats a young student? Am I tender with people?
Do I think evil? This aspect can also be translated as love does not keep a record of wrongs. Do I store up my spouse, child or others offenses against me and then use them as a club against them each time there is an issue? Do I forgive fully like Jesus does?
We can continue on through Paul’s description of the attributes of love and see how we do. We can even replace the word love in the verses with our own name if we are willing:
Tom is not envious? Ugh! Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. I need to help in this category but my life is not categorized by envy.
Tom does not parade himself and is not proud? Again, Lord help me with this one.
Tom bears all things, Tom hopes all things, Tom endures all things? Nope, nope, nope, not even close. All things really means all things and I need God’s help here as well.
We are not going to score perfectly. Only Jesus ever got 100% on this test. We are all being sanctified and transformed into Jesus’ image. This necessarily means we are not currently totally in His image. We are never going to be perfectly loving until we see Jesus face to face. But we can get better with the Lord’s help and like dealing with tech support, we have to be willing to look for the problems so that we can solve them.
The goal with the Lord is never to remain stuck in the issue. We don’t know what we need to work on unless we diagnose the problem, right?
The question is whether we are willing to ask the difficult questions and the accept the hard answer?
Lord, where am I not loving like you love? Lord, show me how to change those areas so I love like you do? Lord, give my heart so I can love like you love?