Love is Fair

LOVE IS FAIR

1 CORINTHAINS 13:4-7

JAMES 3:13-17

 Listen To Love is Fair

Wesley-Autrey-use-this-one1

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”

I don’t know about you but I think it is clear that Paul has lost his mind at this point. I don’t know about you but in my experience love does envy. Love does boast. Love is arrogant. Love is rude. And love causes you to do all sorts of stupid things.

I don’t know about you but I have made some pretty stupid decisions when I have been in love. There was that time I jumped down two flights of stairs at the encouragement of a lady I was trying to impress at the time. She thought it was manly. I actually jumped down three flights of stairs. I just didn’t make it down the third flight.  Instead I hit my head and ended up bleeding on the floor.  Now you may be thinking, “Wow Pastor Will hits his head a lot. He just got a concussion last summer.” Well the stair incident was several years ago. And when I got a concussion last summer I got a CT scan. The doctors said there was nothing wrong. I know that is hard to believe. But it is true.

This example is to illustrate the point that it seems that Paul is a little off the ball here. His description of love doesn’t seem to fit our reality and experience of love. Love does envy, it does boast, it is arrogant, and rude. And it is anything but fair.  There is an old saying, “all is fair in love and war,” which means love and war are essentially unfair. Because if everything is fair that means people are just being arbitrary and making up the rules as they go along. And this is what love feels like for many. For we all know that love is blind and it causes us to ignore basic reality. The heart wants what it wants. It draws us towards things and people for reasons we don’t consciously comprehend. After the fact we know that jumping down three flights of stairs for a woman is a really bad idea.  We find ourselves, in my case literally jumping for approval. We look in the mirror sometimes, no matter what age we are and think, “life and love it’s just not fair.”

Yet, today I have good news. The Bible tells us that God is Love and God is Fair. In Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11 Peter and Paul tell us God is no respecter of persons. Peter and Paul had their fair share of disagreements but they agreed on this essential point. The word here basically means God doesn’t see faces. He doesn’t care how pretty or ugly you think you are. He sees people’s hearts. Life isn’t about fitting in. And it isn’t about standing apart. It is about knowing hearts. And God knows your heart. God knows your joys and your hurts. God knows what you need. To Be fair is to seek the know the heart of another. It is to seek to know what others need and not what we think they need.  Fairness is knowing that every person is fighting a great battle. It is stepping across the trenches in love to understand their battle.

The letter of James expands on Jesus’ teachings and applies them to practical everyday situations. James explains to us in our verse today the sources of envy and jealously and how to counter it. He tells us that envy, jealously, and bitterness, are the results of worldly wisdom. And indeed boastful and strong personalities are more desirable in many cultures.

Instead of boasting and making claims that we can’t deliver on, which is the world’s wisdom, James recommends wisdom from above. He tells us heavenly wisdom is first, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Good works are sown when we make the soil of peace. James tells us that part of the reason we don’t have peace is because of our passions. It isn’t that our passions are bad they are just misplaced. Our passion are inherently focused on our own needs and not the needs of others

I think the Bible says that character is who we are when no one is looking. When everyone has turned their back on you. When you have lost the Super bowl, and someone is going to loose, not even the minister knows who that is going to be. When we haven’t gotten the job. When our dreams are broken. When we have faced disappointment.  The LORD sees our heart. He sees the good and the bad and he asks, “what are you living for?” Are you living for yourself, are you living for approval? Or are you living for God? Are you living for others?

Recently, I was reading materials for this sermon at Coaster’s Coffee, a local coffee shop that is nearby. I was listening as I studied to a radio program streamed from the internet called Radio Lab. The program was entitled, “How to be a Hero.” .  None of us grow up wanting to be mediocre. We want to live heroic lives. We want to make a difference. When the chips are down we want to do our part. And we have heroes among us. Veterans who have served and it has cost them dearly. And those who have served who we may not know about.

The program was about why those who are not in the military, who are not firefighters, who are not police, people who are just regular folks with no obligation to help strangers, choose to risk their lives for strangers. There is actually a foundation that finds these people, collects their stories, and give them awards. The program tells about a woman who was driving on the road one day and saw a woman getting mauled by a bull. Without even thinking she stopped her car, climbed over an electric fence, and beat the bull with a metal rod that one of the farm hands gave her. In another case a man awoke in the dead of night to find that some teenagers had crashed their car into a tree on his property. The car was on fire. He pulled all the kids out even as hot metal dripped onto his back. The consistent theme that the foundation found was these people were not boastful. They didn’t explain their elegant reasons for helping they just did it.  They didn’t think about what they were doing in the moment.

In one of the most famous cases, you may have heard of, Wesley James Autrey, a fifty year old construction worker in New York City, was in a subway station, and he saw a man have a seizure.  The man fell on the tracks as a train was coming. Wesley heard a voice that said, “you can do this.” He left his two daughters on the platform, by themselves, and jumped down onto the tracks to rescue the man. He tried to lift him off the tracks. But the train was soon right on top of them. So Wesley pressed the man down between the tracks and put his body on top of him. The train passed over them as they were pressed together on the tracks. They both survived.

As he jumped onto the tracks a moment in Wesely’s life flashed before his eyes. Twenty years before a gun had been held to his head. The assailant pulled the trigger but the gun misfired and Wesley was spared. From that day Wesley saw the rest of his life as a gift. His life was no longer his own. Perhaps he had been spared for a reason. Life had brought him to the point where he did not have to think. It was just the right thing to do. As the book of James would say Wesley had become a doer of the word and not just a hearer. It wasn’t just that he cared about the other person. We all would in that situation. But most of us would be paralyzed. Yet, Wesley had come to a point where he did not count his life as more valuable than the life of the man on the tracks.

I believe Wesley was seeing his life from God’s perspective. He saw that man as someone like him, a man with hopes, fears and dreams, perhaps a man with kids himself. Because he had almost lost his life Wesley believed his life didn’t belong to him anymore.   In the words of the Apostle Paul, Wesley had come to a place where he said, “I do not count my life as precious to myself. My only aim is to finish the race and to complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me-the task of testifying to the Good news of the grace of God in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:24).” God’s love is fair because God’s love brings us to a place where we let go of our lives because we see life is not about us it is about Jesus and His love for the world.

As I was listening to this story and reading books in preparation for this sermon I looked out of the coffee shop window. I was surprised to see that a man in a wheel chair had fallen on the sidewalk outside. He was struggling on the ground. Unable to get up. I didn’t know how long he had been there or if people had noticed him. I wasn’t really thinking. I just left my seat and headed to the door. So did a couple of other people in the shop. This one man was closer to the door so he got there before me. He said, “here let me help you.” And he lifted the man into his arms in such a tender way I was moved in my heart. He gently put him back in his chair. Apparently the man knew this man. He said he had done an active shooter training at a place the guy worked at. So perhaps this good Samaritan was some sort of police officers. After the man had helped the wheelchair bound man he went back into the coffee shop. I got the sense that it wasn’t a big deal for him. He didn’t have any plan to save the world. He didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of whether he needed to help or if someone else would do it. He didn’t care who was looking. He went back to what he was doing as if nothing had happened.

What are we going to do when we see someone who has fallen? Whether it be a friend, a family member, a stranger, or an enemy? In that moment of vulnerability will we have hearts of war full of bitter jealously, and selfish ambition? Will we think, oh how the mighty have fallen! You should have known better! I would have never had made that mistake!  I would have never fallen like you! I told you so.” Or will we have hearts of peace full of gentleness, peace, open to reason, full of sincerity. For a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  And we shall find peace when we see that God is love and love is fair.

In the beginning our ancestors decided that they wanted the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve forsook fellowship so that they could be in control. Ever since then we have been kicking each other when we are down. There has been envy, boasting, jealously, and division. The irony is the more we seek to be in control the more we lose control of our lives.  The human race has more knowledge and technology than at any point in human history. And yet we still can’t love each other. We still can’t be fair to one another.

I have been listening to a new contemporary Christian song by Tenth Avenue North. It is entitled, “Control”. And here is how it goes.

Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down
In Your hands
Only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go, oh

 

We want to know how to control our lives. We read self help books, we dissect the Bible to find strategies for living, winning, and loving. But what if it isn’t about twelve step plans and your best life now.  What if it is about opening our hands up, letting go of our lives, and giving up control? As Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s sake will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? (Mark 8:34-38). Oh God, our God, we have insisted on our own way, but love does not insist on it’s own way. Today, this day, we open our hands up and give you control. Because we know that you are our God. We know that you are love. And Love is fair.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

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