Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Do I Love Thee?

For the second time I've been given the opportunity to do a study on the Fruit of the Spirit. I'm enjoying it because this study is from a different perspective than the first one I did and I'm learning a lot. Yesterday in our group we were talking about love, specifically Agape Love. One thing the study pointed out that I really appreciated was that Agape is not fueled by the desire of its recipient; it is fueled by the need.

Not what I want, but what I need.

That's how much God loves me, enough to lay aside what I want (no matter how much whining I do!) in favor of giving me what I need. It doesn't always feel good to be loved this way! Sometimes it hurts and I don't understand what He's doing but because I trust Him, I can trust that He is doing what is best for me.

He also calls me to love others in this way. I think this is a concept our world has a hard time understanding. We tend to think that if we make someone the least bit uncomfortable we aren't being loving to them.

My sister's husband Fred has been in the hospital for a couple of weeks now with an assortment of health issues that brought him to the brink of death. He's had a perforated bowel, kidney failure, heart trouble, fluid in his abdomen and needs a liver transplant. He went through a surgery to repair his bowel and has been on dialysis to clear his body of the toxins that are overwhelming his system.
Things have been going well since the surgery and he's regained enough strength to be a pain! He doesn't understand why he's in the hospital, he's been in a drug induced fog for several weeks and doesn't know how close to dying he came. He pulled his catheter out of the artery it was in because he wanted to go home. Fortunately my sister spotted it and he was fixed right up but now because of his antics (of which this was only one) he is in restraints. He's yelled and used profanity, begged people to release him, asked for scissors or a knife all because he desperately wants out of those restraints!

But no one will help him out. Does nobody love him? No, it's because we love him that we won't untie him. It could be life threatening to remove the restraints at this point.

It's hard to overlook what someone wants and go straight to what they need! Tracy (his wife) has to put up with all of this while she stands guard. It takes a toll, it's hard work to choose the best for someone instead of what they think they want. But it's exactly what we're called to do.

Love is the first one listed in the verse on the Fruit of the Spirit but goodness ties directly into this type of Agape love.

Goodness is moral excellence; virtue, generosity; the activity calculated to advance value, excellence or perfection. The word indicates zealous activity in doing good.

Goodness carries the idea of purity, righteousness, obedience to God. The Greek word used here (agathosune), interestingly enough is not found outside of Christian writings. It was a word used only among believers to denote uprightness of heart and life. Agathosune is active – even aggressive – goodness. It is more than excellence of character; it is character energized, expressing itself in active good. Agathosune is goodness but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. This is the trait that will get out the red pen when correcting a math assignment and mark the incorrect ones.

The popular world view right now is that we should all be nice to each other; that is what is considered “good”. We are all well aware of what it means to be politically correct so we don’t offend someone. On the surface it seems like that's a fine idea but we’re comparing people to people in this equation and we have left God out of it. God’s goodness goes beyond “just being nice to each other”.

If I love my children and want “good” for them I will have boundaries for them and I will train them in God’s righteous standard. This one can be so hard! Sometimes when we're disciplining we see the big sad eyes filled with tears and we think our job is done and we don't need to punish them. If you're thinking that, you're right. You don't ever, ever want to "punish" them. You want to discipline them. What's the difference?

Love your kids enough to discipline them. Sometimes I want to love them selfishly because it's hard for me to actually mete out disciplinary action. In this case, I am loving me more than them.
If we are parenting with the end in mind we can see that every thing we're doing is going to produce certain fruit in their lives; good or bad. Which do you want to sow?

Likewise, there are occasions that we as brothers and sisters in Christ will need to admonish one another in order to provoke each other to goodness. This takes humility both to give and receive.

If you are on the giving end humility is extremely important so that you don't fall into the same situation you're trying to rescue someone from. This type of correction has to be done in love and with the goal of restoration. We should never go into this kind of situation thinking we need to "fix" someone or make them "wise up". Pray, pray and pray some more before you go there!

If you're on the receiving end of a correction it can be even more challenging! My pride wants to just jump up there and smack someone! I try to pray every day for humility and that I would be teachable because sometimes I need to hear a hard word. My husband has on occasion had to call me on a behavior or an attitude and my flesh wants to rise up and poke him with something sharp and pointy!

But I always try to run these things by the Lord and respond instead of react. Whenever someone accuses me of something the first thing I do is ask the Lord, “Is there any merit to what they are saying?” If yes then repentance is in order and then the next thing I ask the Lord is “What do you want me to learn from this?” Even if there was no merit to what they said, if the Lord allowed it then there is something I can learn from it.

Surrender to Him, humility, empathy for someone else who had the same situation occur, there are any number of things He teaches me in this stuff but the key is to be humble and open to Him.

If you trust that God is good then you have to realize that He will rebuke you. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."

Love. It's not just a feeling. It's not flowers and candy. It's hoping for and encouraging the best. It's acting in the best interest of those we're loving to spur them to righteousness.

Love me enough to do this for me and I will try to do the same for you.


Christabelle said...

Thank you, Fran, for posting this.

Kim said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing, Fran. :) I especially loved the last line. How neat that you get to do another Fruit of the Spirit study. I have a study by BM that I was thinking of digging into again...

By the way, I could totally hear your voice when you said, "My flesh wants to rise up and poke him with something sharp and pointy!" lol

Anonymous said...

This was great Fran. I especially liked the reminder to go to someone in humility. I am guilty of feeling desperate in situations and ultimately do more harm than good or do come off self rightous when reaching out to an individual. Thankfully the Lord is fine tuning that in me. I appreciate your blogging : )

Kim said...

I miss your blogs, Fran. I hope you guys had a wonderful Easter. Love you!