The Singular Priority of Everything

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April 2, 2022

1 Peter 4:8 NIV

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

CONSIDER THIS

If there is one thing we can say about Peter, and we can say a lot—he stays on message. Go back with me to chapter 1 verse 22:

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Don’t miss the first two words from today’s text.

Above all

In other words, Peter identifies the priority. It is not sobriety or holiness or prayer or wakefulness or correct doctrine or the authorities or the end or anything else we have talked about over these past sixty days so far. One of our big problems is we persist in believing we can have priorities and try to balance many things or hold multiple things in tension. There can only be one priority. We can have multiple commitments but only one priority. So what is the priority? Above all . . . what? 

love

Love is the priority—above all. Like prayer we all have some notion and ethic of love, and when we read it we automatically assume we know what it means. When I think I have the answer, I am not inclined to ask deeper questions. I have been working the last few weeks on rememberizing one of the most profound texts in all of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13. Pay close attention to how it begins. For starters, (and for some reason it got included at the end of chapter 12), we get this:

And now I will show you the MOST EXCELLENT WAY. (caps my emphasis) 

Then we get this interesting trilogy of “If—But—Then” propositions. 

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, that I may boast, but have no love, I gain nothing. 

That is Paul’s way of saying: Above all, love each other deeply. It’s like he’s saying, of anything I have talked about, of everything you have heard me say, none of it matters without this one thing: Love. Friends, we have all been to too many weddings and heard this text tracked out like a precious moment poem that we hardly even hear it anymore; much less feel the jarring force of it. It has even become quaintly known as “The Love Chapter.” I am proposing a new name. How about we go with, “If you get everything done in life, but you do not have love, you have wasted your life.” Now, go back and read the jarring prologue again. 

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

This is not love as a soft, squishy, fluffy, flowery thing. We actually need to coin another English word for what the Bible is trying to say here. What we need, in fact, is a doctrine of love. Does such a thing exist? Have I just missed it? Why don’t we have one? 

I thought this might be a brief get off the bus and walk around verse, but it looks to be another campsite for our Petrine pilgrimage. I’ll meet you back here in verse eight tomorrow. In the meantime, join me in the 1 Corinthians 13 rememberizing challenge. You will thank me later. As will everyone who knows you. ;0) 

Wake up sleeper and rise from the dead. . . 

Your turn: 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are the perfect love of God, the exact expression of all love is and can be. You said it to us so many times and even more than you said it you did it, and you keep doing it. Forgive us for missing the point, for thinking it is somehow about something else—like power or justice or judgment or behaving. Teach us the doctrine of love. Holy Spirit, write love on our hearts and emblazon it on our minds. Make it the very seeds in our hands. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Have you ever seen, read, or heard of a doctrine of love? Are you up for exploring such a possibility? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. JD, in answer to your question about a doctrine of love, no, not with any depth. It’s just assumed that we’re all thinking the same thoughts. In reality the English word love has far too many meanings. It has to be understood in context. I know that the love of Christ, that as a disciple we’re called to have and use, is an alien virtue that requires a transformation of the heart to possess. I believe it’s the fruit that reveals the true nature of our allegiance to Christ.

  2. There’s an old Larry Norman song that proclaims a doctrine of love. Ask Alexa to play, “Without Love You Ain’t Nothing” by Larry Norman. Then listen closely to the words as you tap your feet.

    The Bible is full of teaching about love and about God’s loving kindness. Most preachers have preached multiple sermons on love. Is more theological configuration of love necessary? Can more analysis about love help us love more? Jesus clearly demonstrates love in the Gospels. Paul clearly defines it in “The Love Chapter.”

    Love isn’t a theology–a religious head trip. It’s a heart that’s been so captured by kindness and consumed with compassion that it “considers others better than yourself.” It’s not sweet feelings, but courageous, continuous, self-sacrificing behavior.

    Love’s a “do”–a very demanding “do.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s not thought or sentiment. It’s caring action.

    “Agape” is the most important word that the Greek New Testament uses for love. There’s nothing human about agape. It’s God’s love. It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit, which means that love isn’t produced merely by human effort but is inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit living in and through a human being. My desires, feelings, and opinions must decrease within me so that God can become the source of my behavior and I can be led by the Spirit. Without God’s supernatural empowerment, we can’t demonstrate and spread agape. Left to our own resources and abilities we can only offer people a generic brand of love that’s laced with selfish motives.

    Agape begins with and is continually motivated by a new birth and a new heart that makes us “pure in spirit” so that the living water of agape can flow from our innermost being and manifest in our considering others better than ourselves and demonstrating that in our actions. Agape is glorious and the only hope humans have of glory is “Christ in you.” “God so agaped the world . . .” By complete and continual surrender to God’s Son, you can be an instrument of God’s glorious and supernatural agape.

    Lord, make me contagious with Your agape. Constantly empower me to be kind and compassionate to everyone.

  3. I agree that this is the core of Christianity that has been lost. However, it is not about loving people for who they are, it is about loving people enough you want them to be the type of person God originally created us to be. However, that requires being unfolded into God’s epic story of LOVE for HIs people. This LOVE has its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and Son of Man in whom God’s justice and mercy came together in an explosive act of HOLY LOVE that changed everything!!! And the clear, consistent telling of that epic LOVE is what has been lost. There are hints of it in the historical liturgy and classic hymns, but a full telling of it has been MIA for a long time. It is why churches in America are failing; they lost the message that justifies their existence!

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