Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Sincere Love
Today’s Scripture: 1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
A rather well built man saw an advertisement for a job at the zoo. When he went there, he was horrified to find that the only job they had open was for somebody to play the part of a gorilla. A lot of children were coming in the next few days, and the zoo, having no gorillas, needed someone to impersonate one. Since money was tight, the man decided he would take the job.
He arrived before sunrise, got into the gorilla outfit, and slipped into his cage. Finally, day dawned, and the children came. All he had to do was pensively pace the floor, look rather adept at swinging between trees, and eat the peanuts and bananas whenever they were fed to him. After eight or ten hours, he became thoroughly exhausted. The bananas were getting the better of him. As he swung from one tree to another, rather nauseated, he slipped and fell into the lion’s den next door.
He shouted, “Help! Help!”
The lion leaned over and said, “If you don’t shut up, we’ll both lose our jobs.”
We have become pretty adept at impersonating others. Young children impersonate their parents. Teenagers impersonate their friends. Poor people impersonate the wealthy through the use of credit. Men impersonate husbands while constantly looking for other opportunities for gratification. Christians impersonate the non-Christians to avoid suffering. Non-Christians impersonate Christians to be accepted in the church.
We all need to ask ourselves if we are impersonating anyone else right now because we believe it will bring us some measure of acceptance or value. Chances are we are. Maybe your personality is a copy of someone else you once knew, you saw the favor it brought to his or her life, and you wanted that for yourself. Maybe your current lifestyle is a choice to keep up with a neighbor down the street. Maybe your career choice was made to imitate the person from whom you wanted to gain approval. I’ll bet all of us are impersonators of some sort.
God has a plan to expose impersonators. It’s a rather simple plan. It starts with the indwelling Spirit of Christ at the moment of your salvation. When God’s love takes up residence in us, it exposes all of our impersonation attempts. Peter states that the result of having our life purified by obedience to the truth is that our love becomes sincere. We cease to impersonate love and we begin to truly know and show love. So what’s the difference?
The person who is a love impersonator may look like they really love someone, but if their heart were exposed it would reveal the ugliness of self-gratification. Their actions may appear to be as meaningful as the Christ-impersonator, but underneath are the motives of self-acceptance, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification. They are impersonating love to gain an advantage for themselves. It may be that they need acceptance, or worth, or meaning, but the fact that they are trying to get those things from others and not Christ makes them a love impersonator.
Those who truly know Christ know that their value and acceptance come from Him and not from others or from self. Once we learn that truth, and surrender completely to the qualification of our lives by Christ, we will become a transmitter of love, not an impersonator of love. That’s what it means for love to be sincere. Sincere love gives to others with no expectation of return benefits. Impersonators of love always need something back from the ones they love.
We cannot claim to love God and not sincerely love one another. The depth of our love for God will never exceed the width of our love for others. The Apostle John said, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.(1 John 4:12)
Stanley Hauerwas said, We can risk loving as passionately as God loves. For we know that the love God makes possible is no scarce resource that must be hoarded so that it may be distributed in dribs and drabs—a little here and a little there. Love is not a rare commodity; rather, the more we love with the intense particularity of God’s love, the more we discover that we have the capacity to love.
So here’s how you can get started sincerely loving others. One of the greatest expressions of love is simply to notice people and to pay attention to them. We get so wrapped up in our own little worlds and the overwhelming busyness that results from our own selfish choices that we tend to look right past other people unless we can somehow benefit from noticing them. We are love impersonators. True love – the love of Christ living in us – makes us notice others. We don’t get frustrated with interruptions, but rather we embrace them as opportunities to truly love.
So take the mirror away from in front of your eyes. You know the one I mean – it’s the one that you pretend to being seeing through when in reality you are always looking at yourself. Get rid of it. You don’t need a mirror – you are one, and you are to be reflecting the love of God to others. He has already made you complete. You don’t need anything from anyone else. You have everything in place to become a true giver of love. So take notice of all the people around you that need God’s love, and pay attention to them.