Where Religion Failed…

Just as I set out to write this chapter, a face from the past sent me a message online… For well over a decade now, my ministry mission statement has been to “touch the untouchable and reach the unreachable”… It’s not always been an easy task.  It’s often difficult to “love” when it’s not reciprocated.  Still, I have understood the fact that loving people is the only way that many will ever come to know God.  He’s placed a passion in my heart for this subject and it’s one that I have studied in depth and is most always at the root or included in every sermon I have preached for many years.

 

The woman who just contacted me is the mother of a young man who I cared for very deeply.  When I first met Geron, I was working as an Educational Assistant in a Court Ordered program for youth who were coming out of the system and mandated to be in a very structured educational environment.  Needless to say, most of the students didn’t dig being FORCED to be there and many times the staff became the object of their frustration and/or aggression…This young man was no different from that perspective…

 

He and I had some SERIOUS nose to nose confrontations, there were times I didn’t know if they would end badly but they seemed to always work themselves out and in the end he and I had a very unique relationship.  I loved him…He knew it and so did his mother and younger sister…and I knew that he too loved me as I kind of took on that “mentor” type of roll in his life…

 

The circumstances couldn’t have been any more ironic, a young, African American teenager from the city being mentored and loved on by some yankee, half country, preacher, white boy … but it was what it was and honestly, it was pretty cool… I believe that I would be remiss if I didn’t say that, in the end, he probably taught me more than I taught him.  I’m convinced that it was because of our relationship that when I became a cop and later on a detective that I was able to not only relate with, but actually have report with a lot of the guys from his neighborhood… It was funny, but when I would pull up to a group of them in my patrol car, they would all run…until I got out of the car and whistled at them…When they saw it was me, they would all come back and talk to me… I heard many times, “Aaron, you are the only cop we will be around or talk to”… Above my being pretty strict, and definitely hard core about the law and doing what was right, they understood something else about me…They knew I cared…

 

To make a long story short…My heart was broken along with his family’s when Geron died…

 

Here’s the kicker and the reason that I shared that story as a preface to what I am attempting to convey today…

 

After nearly 12 years, I got an instant message on my computer from his mother and then his little sister who is now 24 years old herself.  At the end of our brief conversation, lil’ sister says to me, “I love you, Aaron…I’ll see you soon…”  This message could not have come at a more opportune time today as I set out to write a chapter about “Love”…

 

How does that happen?  How, can the seed sown a decade ago still be producing fruit in that capacity?  Because people were loved!  I cared about them, I cared about their family, I was willing to put myself out there for them, I was willing to love even when it was not initially “convenient” or reciprocated, I WAS hurt, I WAS broken, I WAS disheartened when he died, I DID feel like I failed him somehow… BUT, I’d do it all again in a second…It was this willingness to love them that has left a connection that even years later, when talking to me, she writes… “I love you Aaron…” and I’m not ashamed to say that when I read it, I teared up…

 

So many times, religion places emphasis on the negative…You know from your own experiences what that means…Judgment, wrath, finger pointing, pride filled self-righteousness…etc… and from what is often exampled, this is what we believe is the “way” to do things… but Jesus revealed a side of God that religion, outside of a genuine relationship with Jesus doesn’t seem to comprehend… This being the understanding that, God is Love… and Love is what is also EXPECTED of us BY GOD!

 

Now check this out, here is where things get really legit!  The apostle Paul wrote 2/3’s of the New Testament and wrote one of THE MOST QUOTED and MOST FAMOUS passages of scripture in the bible in his letter to the church at Corinth… 1 Corinthians 13- “The Love Chapter”.  It is by Jesus’ teachings and this chapter that we understand the importance of loving people from God’s perspective…

 

I’ve preached that 1 Corinthians 13 chapter over the years until I have been blue in the face!  It has been a bit of a soap-box vent and the mantra of much of my ministry and yet, a couple weeks ago, I saw something about this chapter that I have NEVER seen before and I would like to share it with you today!

 

For those of you who may not know, the first time Paul is introduced in the bible he is known as “Saul of Tarsus”.  He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Pharisee = one of the MAJOR religious leaders of their day).  He grew up “in the house” of Religion…This is a man who understood ALL of the aspects of his religion!  He was educated in the most structured and revered sects of Judaism.  He knew the words of the prophets.  He understood the theological interpretations of the Torah.  He could explain the Law of Moses and likely had it memorized.  He had a depth of understanding regarding the mysteries of God and His Word that most of his day did not… He was a religious SCHOLAR!  And as I read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 for the gazillionth time a couple weeks ago, it hit me… When Paul used the word “I”…He meant it literally!  He was using not only his words to teach but he was using his life as a transparent teaching tool!  The people to whom he wrote, knew his background…They too understood the religious practices of that day and Paul was relaying to them the importance of the ONE THING that he missed in all of his training about God’s nature!

 

Paul realized that all of the knowledge and all of the training that he received was worth NOTHING if it was not conveyed in LOVE! (and verses 8,9, and 10 become ALIVE with that perspective) Paul was simply and pointedly showing the church the importance of LOVING over all else!  This was the ONE aspect of God that he did NOT understand until he came into a TRUE relationship with Jesus Christ… Paul WAS “the man” that he was writing about in this chapter!  He spoke from a place of authority because he walked it on both sides of the fence and understood what he was conveying from a depth that most never would!  He was saying, “Hey guys, learn from my life…Learn from my experiences…Learn from the very area where I once lacked the most!”

 

Now with that perspective…Read this chapter again… For me, placing myself in the shoes of the writer took it to a whole different level of ALIVE!

 

1 Corinthians 13

1 IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

 

2And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).

 

3Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.

 

4Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

 

5It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

 

6It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

 

7Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

 

8Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth].

 

9For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).

 

10But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded).

 

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.

 

12For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].

 

13And so faith, hope, love abide [faith–conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope–joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love–true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

 

 

If we want to see the power of God displayed in our lives…If we want to see the world touched, and ministered to and saved… If fulfilling the Great Commission of relaying the gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide is what we TRULY desire to see, then we must first embrace the Great Commandment conveyed by Jesus in Matthew 22 of Loving God with our whole heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves…

 

God is LOVE…

 

It has almost become a cliché phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care…” but where the rubber meets the road…Love IS the prerequisite…

 

I think the message bible says it most clearly in this final scripture…

 

1 John 4:20 (The Message)

 

20-21If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.

 

 

The arena of “Love” is where Religion Failed… When Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law, I believe that, more than anything, Love is what He was talking about…

 

…Love Never Fails…

 

If you can dig it…Say WORD!

 

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