So ‘what’s love got to do with simplifying your life?’ And the answer is, everything! Because when you maximize love - when you talk about purposely, specifically loving other people in intimate and authentic ways - some of the trivial things all of a sudden lose their luster. Who cares about this or that, when love is really happening?
I’ll give you three reasons why the answer is everything. The first we covered because anything minus love is nothing. In fact, everything minus love…Meet some people that have spent their life with the ladder leaning on fame, money, fortune. The only thing missing is their mate, their kids, and any close friends…Everything minus love is nothing.
The second reason is because it is our mis-belief about what our performance, possessions, and provisions can deliver that keep us doing the Silicone Valley Shuffle. Now, if you don’t know what that new dance is, it’s actually not that new, you can get the CD from last week.
But it’s that Shuffle - we chase bigger, better, faster, more. Bigger, better, faster, more. That creates worlds of complexity and worlds that have tired, overextended people with a lifestyle that promises a lot, delivers little, and is characterized by superficial, shallow relationships and achy loneliness in your soul.
The third reason that love and simplicity go together is because you can only do less if you purpose to love more.
In terms of my study, you know, when I prepare for this, the person who gets spoken to first is me. And I’ve, like many of you, I’m a fairly driven person, I’m pretty goal oriented. And I’ve told myself a million times I’m going to slow down more, get more margin.
That doesn’t last long unless you shift the focus. Instead of, I’m not gonna be doing these things, I’m going to love deeply. I want to love God more deeply than ever before. I want to love my wife more deeply than ever before. I want to love my kids and, in my case, grandkids. I want to love my friends. I want…
When you begin to purpose to say I’m going to love more and love deeper, some of the pressures you’re feeling, all of a sudden, they’re not that important anymore.
And so, the question I want to ask and answer today is, how do we then maximize love so love becomes what’s important and some of those trivial - they don’t feel trivial - but those trivial, less important things, diminish in their priority and demand on your life.
I believe the key is loving to learn, or learning to love, is in real time. So this is not a motivational talk that, you know, you should love more or, you know, platitudes…or try harder or get you emotionally in a pitch – “I want to love more!”
Well, that lasts about thirty seconds to thirty hours, depending on your personality. The key to transformation is, in real time - in how you live with the people you’re closest to.
And so, last week, we looked at situation number one and a real time issue is, how do you respond to those who hurt you? And the truth is, we learned, 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind.
The practice is, someone has hurt you, they’ve ignored you, they’ve rejected you, they made you feel bad. You can either withdraw or pay them back or…remember the pillow? You can absorb the blow, by the grace of God, and return a hug. That’s the practice.
Today we’re going to talk about a second real life, kind of, learning to love in real time. And in real time, we’re going to look now at, how does love respond to differences? We have different personalities, we have different backgrounds, we have different gifts.
Those of you that are in a significant relationship or married, it was your differences that drew you together and if you’ve been married much time at all, it is your differences that make you crazy. Right?
Or even with friends. You know, you become good friends with someone and you really like it because they’re different than you and then you start hanging out with them and those differences are like, man, would you lighten up? You’re kinda making me crazy.
Well, the church in Corinth had a lot of differences and the Apostle Paul is going to address this issue of differences.
In fact, the truth is, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrong. That’s 1 Corinthians 13:4 and 5.
Now, make sure you get the core of it. Pull out your pencil, underline the word “envy,” underline the word “boast,” “rude,” “not self-seeking,” “easily angered,” “keeps no record of wrongs.”
This is how love responds to differences. And I told you last time, if you wanted to have some extra fun, you could read as quickly as you could the entire book of 1 Corinthians. And you would find that, far from a beautiful poem that Paul is writing, is that he’s actually giving correctives to how this church was treating one another.
And so, it says, love doesn’t envy. Well, they were envying in chapter 3 and he addresses it. It says, love doesn’t boast. He actually says, why are you boasting, in chapter 4.
In chapter 11, they were rude in the way they took the Lord’s Supper. In chapter 6, they were self-seeking, they were actually going to court and suing one another. And then when you get all that conflict, guess what? They’re easily angry at one another and they’re holding on and they’re bitter and resentful.
And so, Paul’s saying, that’s not how love responds to differences. So, in chapter 12, what he actually did, if you have your Bible, open it up. 1 Corinthians chapter 12. And in chapter 12, he has expressed to them how love actually works.
He says, the way love works is, love celebrates our differences. Love looks at different people and realizes, it’s kinda like the little pieces of a puzzle, is that every one of them is important and they’re different colors and they’re different shapes but love celebrates differences and love refuses to compare.
And so he gives the analogy of the human body. And so he writes, the body. This is chapter 12, verse 12. The body is a unit. Get the idea of oneness or wholeness. Though it’s made up of many parts. And though all the parts are many, they form one body.
So, there’s differences, diversity, and there’s unity. Now, he applies it. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit in the one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slave or free. We’re all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now, when we read slave or free, Jew or Greek, we think, yeah, yeah. I mean, these are people that didn’t get along at all before they came to Christ. He’s saying, you are very, very, very different. But now you’re a part of something that’s bigger and more important in your new relationship. You’re a part of the body of Christ, the church.
Now, the body is not made up of one part but many. And then he gives a hypothetical situation. He’s using the human body to make his point about, love doesn’t compare. He says, if the foot should say because I’m not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.
And if the ear should say, because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.
And then he goes on to say, if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
He’s saying, we need every part of the body. But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
You might underline that little phrase in your Bible, “just as he wanted them to be.”
Until you understand that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, that you’re unique. That your physical body, how you process information, your spiritual gifts, your weaknesses, your strength, and the sovereignty of God, even the kind of experiences - ups and downs - you’ve been through. You bring something unique that no one else does and if you compare or copy or be like someone else, we lose you. And we need you.
He goes on to say, verse 21, the eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you. And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you.
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special favor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty while our presentable parts have no special treatment.
Now, here’s the application. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it so there would be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
Key application. He says, God has done this in a way so that there’s no division and we would have equal concern for one another. This church was very divided. To say it was cliquish is an understatement.
This church was back-biting, gossiping, arguing. And here’s the thing. The problem doesn’t just rest with the Corinthian church in the 1st Century. Every church, every family, every organization. If you compare, instead of celebrate differences, it always produces bad, bad things. In fact, it kills love.
We take differences and instead of saying, we’re different, we look at differences and we say, people that are different, some of them we think, well, they’re better than us. And we envy them. And some people are different, we think, well, they’re less than us. And so we’re arrogant toward them.
And the Apostle Paul’s gonna say that these are the issues he wanted to address and that the Corinthian church had two unloving responses when it came to differences.
The first is envy. And the second is arrogance. Those two issues, I want you to, kind of, see them as a singular coin. And the coin is, in your relationships, in my relationships, in the Corinthian relationships, the question is, how do you respond to differences?
And some people respond by comparing and the outcome is envy. Other people respond and compare in a different way and the outcome is arrogance.
And if you look at those words we read, he says, love isn’t envious. Love isn’t boastful or arrogant. Every other little phrase after that is the fruit of either being envious or arrogant.
Here’s what I want you, I mean, this is what we’re going after. This is the jugular. You want to become more loving in real time? Here’s the issue. Comparison always leads to carnality.
The moment you compare your hair with another person, your car with another person, your gifts with another person, your singleness with a person, your marriage with another person, how God is using or not using you. How much money you have, where you live, what you drive.
The moment you ever compare yourself with another person, it always produces carnality. And if you’re wondering what carnality is, it’s just sin.
You’re not loving. Because the moment you compare, there’s only two directions to go. You start comparing and you go, hmm..I think that person’s up here and I’m here. That’s a lot nicer car. They have more visible gifts. I’m single and they’re married and I wish I was married.
Or it goes the other way. You know what? That person’s not very important. That’s an old dumpy thing. I wonder why they act like that? I wonder why they dress like that? And you know what? You don’t verbalize it but you feel superior. You feel better than. And when you envy people you don’t treat them in loving ways or if you think you’re better than them, you don’t treat them in loving ways.
And so, here’s what I want you to see. We are gonna go to war this morning on the issue of comparison. And comparison, as one guy said - I love it. Comparison is like a mafia boss. Mafia bosses - they don’t ever commit murders. They have hit men. They never get their own hands dirty.
And so what happens is, comparison is really what we want to go after, but there’s two hit men. One is envy. And the other is arrogance.
Now, look at your notes. Get this next issue. Envy compares upward and produces jealousy, anger, resentment, and bitterness. And the text here, this is what the foot says to the hand.
The foot says to the hand, this isn’t fair! I don’t like what you’ve got! I mean, I’m down here on the ground and there’s dust and my feet are dirty and then, and then later, people put socks on me. People can’t even see me. And then you have to wear these shoes and they kind of hurt my feet.
And look at you. You’re hands. They put rings on yours. You paint your nails. I mean, your hands do surgery, your hands play instruments. You’re important and I’m a nobody.
You see, envy always compares upward and then it produces jealousy and anger and resentment.
The word here in Hebrew means something that has connotations of something that’s red-hot. It’s this emotion that, when you begin to envy someone, something burns inside.
It goes something like this. You’re single and you have a desire to be married and you’re now with your third roommate and your first two roommates came home after a date and they said something like, I’ve got some exciting news! I’m engaged!
And your response is, ‘Oh! That’s wonderful’…on the outside. And on the inside, there’s this burning, ‘I can’t get it. I mean, I’ll tell you what. I’ve been doing it God’s way. I’m sexually pure, I’m trying really hard, I go to church. She’s a once a monther. God, what’s the deal? How come she’s’…right?
Or you’re in a Bible study and people don’t know it but, you know, they ask often. You’ve been married six, seven years, you don’t have any kids? Oh, well, we’re just kinda…
And you’ve spent all kinds of money and you can’t have children. And then you’re in one of these Bible studies and you know this group says, well, you know, we were thinking about having kids but it’s been nine months, eleven months, and we still can’t.
And then they come to a Bible study or a life group, they go, we’re pregnant! And like everyone else you go, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful!’ And your insides go, ‘God, I mean, we spent thousands of dollars. We’ve done this…this. You know, why do they get that?’
See, by definition, envy is you looking at what someone else has or what someone else is, and you think if you had it or were it, then you would matter. Then your soul, then your heart, then your life would be complete. And, underneath all of it, ‘It’s not fair, God. If you really loved me, I wouldn’t be single. If you really loved me, we would have kids. If you really loved me, I’d be the top salesperson. If you really loved me, after I gave all that money, how could you let this happen when the recession hit?’
And so, rooted in a belief system that God isn’t really good, you compare upward, and you envy. And the envious person has some feelings and attitudes that go something like this.
I don’t belong. You don’t need me. The feelings move onto a pattern inside the heart. And inside the heart it’s like, well, I feel less than them. You both went to school together. You both had careers together. Seems like their career’s here and yours is there and when you’re with them, and you used to be great friends. But they talk about this world that you feel like, why don’t I have that? And now, you feel less than.
And then the second step is you don’t want to be around them. Because we don’t like to be around people who make us feel less than.
And then after we move from feelings of less than, to not being around them, then we resent them. Subtle. You know, ‘My sister and her husband, how come they got the new car? You know, that guy, that woman, that person at work…’
And by the way, these aren’t things we usually talk about. They’re so delicate, and often, when you look at them and get them out, they’re pretty ugly. These are not, like, prayer requests. Could you help me? When’s the last time someone said, excuse me, I have a prayer request. I’m a very envious person, do you think you could help me with my jealousy? I’ve not heard a lot of those prayer requests.
The word literally means, in Greek, to eagerly desire. And often, the way we try and solve this is very unhealthy. I guess I shouldn’t want to be married. Why do I have this desire? I shouldn’t feel that way. And you just beat yourself up. That doesn’t work.
The [Greek] word means, to eagerly desire. In chapter 12 verse 31, it’s used positively. In chapter 14 verse 1, it’s used positively. In chapter 14 verse 39, the exact same word. Eagerly desire.
Here’s the deal. It can either mean, to be jealous or it can mean to be zealous. And the only difference is the focus of your want. He says, I want you to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. I want you to eagerly desire to prophesy or use your gifts to honor and build up people.
So, here’s what I want you to get on envy. It’s this thing - this eager desire for something. And let’s say that you have an eager desire. You have a desire in your heart for a bigger home.
And your motivation is, you have the gift of hospitality and you’re not comparing with other people. But if you had more room, you could serve and love more people. That’s called zealous desire to honor God.
But let’s say you have a desire for a bigger house. And the desire for a bigger house is, everyone you know is getting bigger houses. And you are sick and tired of inviting them into your condo or your smaller house. And down deep, you feel like you will demonstrate that you have arrived when you have a bigger house. That’s called envy or jealousy.
If the desire is to try and matter more: jealousy. If the desire is, God, I want this to minister more deeply: it’s zealous, God-honoring desire.
You need to redirect your desires, not try to kill them. There’s nothing wrong with the desire, if you’re single, to be married. There’s nothing wrong with the desire, if you don’t have kids, and want to have kids. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to be up on the sales force to, you know, earn a better living. There’s nothing wrong with the…
Those are honest desires. But the moment you compare, you stop loving.