It seems that people are a little tired of the message that nothing works without love. Maybe it's because we seldom see it in action that has made us cynics but without understanding, accepting and operating in this truth we are just spinning our wheels in the Church. This is a word for the young and old alike because we are missing two important elements in the Church which grows from the root of love; tolerance and respect.
The critical importance of love is clear in the Word of God:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
We would do well to consider these words carefully. Taking out the poetic element, it clearly states that without love we are nothing and we gain nothing. If you don't consider love important enough to reflect on for a few minutes you had better consider Jesus' command:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
Jesus never said it was optional for us. And this is not just any love, it is the same love that Jesus has shown us. Not an emotional love but a love of choice. "I choose to love you so my actions will demonstrate that love." In fact, love is what defines us:
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
Pretty clear, so let's move on to what I want to address; the fruit of this love.
Have you noticed how disrespectful much of the youth is toward the older generations. Perhaps it's just me in my corner of the world but I am afraid it is much of North America. I am not just talking about those who speak rudely or refuse to give up their seat on the bus. It's not just those who steal old ladies' purses or mug old men. I am also talking about those who dismiss the wisdom of the grey hair, those who laugh at the advice of those who have gone before them, those who think they know it all because they possess a little bit of knowledge. Do you know what love says about this situation?
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:1-2)
You can put different words there instead of "bear with". How about "put up with", "tolerate", "be patient with". I know many of you would like to go back to the Old Testament days when parents would take their disobedient children down to the city gates and stone them, but not many would consider that an act of love. That was when they had to protect the integrity of the newly born nation. Now the command is love and love tells us we need to make the decision to "bear with the failings of the weak". But that doesn't let the younger generations off the hook. There are many passages that deal with respecting authority which is impossible to do without the understanding of love.
Before any other lesson can sink in we must teach the younger generation the lesson of love. Not the emotional kind but the love taught to us by example from Jesus. The love that says "it doesn't matter what I want or what I think" and puts the needs of others first. Respect does not come from what a person deserves but based on the decision taken in love to treat the person right:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
Authority is not established out of fear or even forced upon anyone. Authority in the Church is established in love. This is why the most important lessons to teach the younger generation is the lesson of God's love and the command to love one another. We are banging our heads against the wall and wasting our time if we are trying to establish anything outside of of love.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
This is the reason we must show our love by "bearing with" the immature in Jesus until the lesson of love has been established. A child cannot learn to run until they have first learned to crawl and then to walk. It is hard and I wish there was a short cut. I wish we could just download our knowledge into them but to be honest, at the age of 47 I am only now beginning to just scratch the edges of this knowledge of love. So many years wasted focused on myself. I am so glad God surrounded me with people who "bore" with me as I moved through the various stages of maturity.
Without a doubt our young people, the immature in Jesus, need to be taught. But they will not learn in an atmosphere of criticism, impatience and intolerance. We have to bear with their blunders and mistakes, loving them through their messes, teaching them from their mistakes, but always being there, never abandoning them, even when they run away from us. Remember that at the end of the day there are only three things of any importance in our life; faith, hope and love. If love is truly the greatest of the three then we should be examining our actions a little more. Are we spending enough time with Jesus that this great thing is being produced in us? If we do not have enough patience, if we are intolerant, if we would rather stone the immature, if we are not showing respect for those over us then we are not spending enough time with Jesus.
They will know us by our love for one another.