Have we ever run into a technical problem with our computer or device? We finally break down and call technical support service for real help and what do they do first? Well, after they tell us 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 to try to see where the trouble pops up. The goal of this test is not to fix the problem itself. A test can fix nothing. It is to force the problem to show itself so a solution can be formulated. We cannot figure out how to repair a problem if we don’t know the problem. It may take a lot of effort to fix, but it is always better knowing what is wrong 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 unless we are willing to discover the problem. This 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 center point 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. We could be bishop of a large city. Yet, if we are doing without the love of Jesus in us and working through us, it is worthless.
We are never doing it right if we don’t have love. It is a major system error if love is not there. Love is that important!
Given the emphasis that God places on love, 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 love. It is supposed to motivate and bring her service to life yet she is angry with her sister and Jesus. 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.
I covered previously how this describes our great God. God is Love.
However, love described by God can be helpful light under which to examine ourselves. 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. It is like holding a garment up to a strong light to examine its quality. The bright light reveals either great quality or hidden flaws.
We simply take each of the described attributes of love from the Bible and see if that properly describes us. If it does that is wonderful. Praise Jesus! If it reveals a problem then praise Jesus and get to work fixing it.
Here is the diagnostic test to apply personally:
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 envy? This is a tough one in the “Keeping up with the Joneses” society we live in. Do I envy the material, physical, relational and even spiritual health of another?
Do I parade myself? Is life all about telling others how great I am? Do I make a point to point out my good deeds to others?
Am I rude? Am I a rude person? Do I treat others well even people I don’t like? Guess what? Politics and social media are not accepted here. Someone who rejects Jesus does not deserve rudeness either. Tough one, right?
Am I easily angered or provoked? Am I an angry Christian? Am I defining my relationship with the Lord by what I am against and angry at?
Do I think evil? This aspect can also be translated as love does not keep a record of wrongs. Do I store up the offenses of my spouse, child or others 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.
It is particularly effective if we replace the word love in the verses with our own name if we dare:
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. My diagnostic test has triggered the problems that need real attention. I need God’s help here.
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 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 must be willing to look for the problems to solve them.
The goal with the Lord is never to remain stuck in the issue.
Are willing to run the diagnostic? Are we willing to accept the hard answers and then take them to the Lord?
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?
If we are willing and ask, He promised to always answer.