”And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
”And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
It takes a lot of things to build work, ministry and family, and one of the integral elements is love. In this season of Revival and Restoration, I believe love is foundational in building lives and restoring relationships. Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church writes like this, ”If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” As sons and daughters of God, we are challenged by the scriptures to uphold our family, our ministry and our work in love. Here is a story of a man who will challenge and inspire us to love beyond our abilities. Temjen, my spiritual Mentor, was a man who had gone through a lot of persecution, shame and rejection in his lifetime..
One early Sunday morning returning home from the church, a man who hated Temjen happened to cross him. Without any specific reason, he began to shout curses and spat right on Temjen’s face. Startled, Temjen could only afford a smile back, immediately, forgiving the man he took to praying for the man. Years later, one day, the man who cursed Temjen was on his deathbed, and he remembered how he treated him. He pleaded with Temjen to pray for him. Without wasting much time Temjen prayed for the man with great joy and he led him to the Lord. Love overcomes hatred and saves broken lives! What would be our response in such a situation?
What is our response when we are ill-treated, when someone mocks or insults us? Are we tempted to retaliate or do we transfer that pain to God, to walk in freedom? Jesus modeled a lifestyle for us to follow – a lifestyle of forgiveness and trusting God in the painful situations of our life. The scripture says in 1 Peter 2:23, 11 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” Today, when we choose to give our pain to God and love the person who offended us, we allow love to triumph over fear, restore broken relationships and heal the pain caused by the offense. Love causes us to walk in freedom.
On a hot Sunday afternoon in 1987 while returning from church, an old hunched-back lady slowly crossed us on the road. My dad was so taken aback by the sight that he invited the old lady to come to our home for a meal. At the table, we found she was abandoned by her children and was living all by herself without much sustenance. My dad quickly made a weekly provision to take care of her from that day on and asked her to consider him as her very own son. Although at that time I didn’t understand why my father did what he did, today I recognize why I never found my dad begging for bread in his lifetime. ”Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” – Ecclesiastes 11 : 1
Love causes us to walk in freedom.
Revival can sometimes look like showing kindness to a complete stranger and going out of our way to help them. Acts 3:6, ”But Peter said, ”I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” We can be kind to someone even when we don’t have much in our bags or pockets, yet that little act of kindness will change the destiny of the person who receives and gives. The apostles wouldn’t have had much in the worldly terms to give to that person, but the act of faith covered in kindness brought a radical change in the life of that lame man – he began to walk! Something that was impossible for him for a long time. Your kindness can change someone’s life today. Have the courage to extend your faith!
I believe that, as important as it is to model Christ to the larger community, our family and the people around us deserve the blessings of our Christ likeness. After taking voluntary retirement from the Army, Temjen dedicated his life to serving God. He fathered a son and lived in the most humble & small tin-roof house on one of the Naga foothills with his beloved wife. Their small garden was magical. All sorts of fruits and vegetables grew in abundance. As a man in ministry, many people came to meet him for prayer, advice and spiritual counsel. Every visitor who came to meet him returned to their homes blessed, healed and full.
Towards the last stages of life, he fathered many spiritual children – ” We lived our life like the sparrows of the air,” said his wife at his funeral. ”Look at the birds. They don’t plant nor harvest nor store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?” – Matthew 6:26. On his last day, there were no worldly riches to adorn him, only Love remained, and just like His savior Jesus, He lived an exemplary life of walking in love – in ministry, work as well as family. He left a lasting and unshakable legacy for his wife and son. Take a moment to think about this – what is the legacy that we are leaving for our next generation? Will our sons or daughters look back in pride and say – I’m a proud daughter/son of my parents?
What is the legacy that we are leaving for our next generation?
Revival also looks like forgiveness and second chances. John 8: 11, ”No one, sir,” she said. ”Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. ”Go now and leave your life of sin.” Someone we knew and trusted had embezzled funds at our family business leaving us feeling deceived and hurt. He was going to be imprisoned. My wife and I, after much prayer, decided to let go of the offense and forgive this man. We took responsibility for the deficit in our business and left the matter in our Lord’s hands. Our family’s budget was badly affected for years and it cut through even our children’s basic necessities. As parents, it broke our hearts to see them suffer for no fault of theirs.
The only consolation we found in our decision was, as Jesus did, forgiving and setting free a fallen man like me. We knew God tested our hearts and God’s love comforted us. I know that you would have a personal story of forgiving the unforgivable. Here, let me remind you that we can only forgive knowing that we are forgiven. When you decide to forgive you give a new lease of life to the person who offended you. It brings out the best in you for the glory of God. As sons and daughters of God we cannot afford to harbor unforgiveness in our hearts. If we do, it becomes a poison within us, killing us from deep within. Forgiveness is like untethering ourselves and having the freedom to walk freely.
Forgiveness is like untethering ourselves and having the freedom to walk freely.
How patient are we in love?
We have seen, heard, and read tales of love. It exemplifies the virtue of waiting in love – longing to hear the lover. We don’t have to go much further than Song of Songs to appreciate the patient waiting in love. The Shulamite waits for her lover, when she doesn’t find him, she begins to enquire about him with the people she meets, even late into the night. The suffering caused by this distance is nuanced throughout the song written by King Solomon (Song of Solomon 5:6-8). When I look around, I see that we are living in a world of estranged relationships. I often wonder what causes a rupture in a relationship. The prime suspect in alienation of relationships is impatience. When we want to mend a relationship, we demand it should be quick and effortless.
When we perceive it is taking a long time to fix, we lose our patience and give up on that person. We begin to think who is next in line? Who can make me feel good and better? We try to find shelter in all the wrong places. Sometimes, our patience is defined by the degree of our selfishness. Do I love myself so much that there is no space for others? Does my once beloved become less-loved? Am I generous enough to be gracious and extend time for restoration? Love challenges us to persevere and be patient with the process.
Let me share a snippet from my life. My relationship with my earthly father was a difficult one. His desire for me and my desire for myself always clashed. He wanted me to study theology because he made a promise to God that he would dedicate his son to the Lord’s work, but I wanted to do business. I felt he couldn’t see my perspective of serving the Lord through business. This brought us many unpleasant conversations resulting in fights and strain in our relationship. I felt misunderstood by my father and it broke me.
The prime suspect in alienation of relationships is impatience.
I decided to take the matter to my heavenly father and started praying, and I also left home and stayed at the farm house alone because that was the only place of refuge for me, at least during that time. One day, while I was working at the farm, my local church leaders came to meet me, and they asked me to join the Church’s youth ministry which I gladly accepted because I knew then and there that it was the Lord’s call. This was the beginning of God’s restoration of my life and also the relationship with my earthly father. Couple of years down the line, I attended TROTB’s one month Agape Discipleship School. After which, there was a total transformation in my life which reflected in the way my father saw and treated me. As tough and painful as it was to have a strain in the relationship between me and my father in the former years, deep down I always longed to enjoy a wholesome relationship with him. And so, when I turned to the Lord and seeked Him more, God restored my relationship with him and we enjoyed a good father-son camaraderie in the latter years till he passed on to be with the Lord. If we wait on the Lord patiently, He always restores.
Love trusts, hopes and perseveres even when the times are tough and eventually gains much.
Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Romans 5:8, ”But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” I’ve been fortunate to have people who believed in me, to not give up on me and invest in my life. One of those people was my aunty Taren. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for her continual support and encouragement. She took to herself to tirelessly recite stories from the Bible and of great men of God which helped shape my faith in the Lord. She also had her own battles to fight as her husband was suffering from a severe heart disease. Despite the storm in her life, she did not cease to be a source of hope for others. The acts of love never go in vain, it accomplishes much. Her loving dedication helped me to grow in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and it saved me along the way. As for my uncle, he went on to live twenty more years after his successful open heart surgery. Love brings forth miracles. Love trusts, hopes and perseveres even when the times are tough and eventually gains much.
This is what I want to leave with you my reader – Love remains! Even through the storms of life, through the dryness of hot summer like seasons of life, through thick and thin if we choose to remain in Love and allow Love to remain in us, we position ourselves to receive a manifold harvest of blessings, to the building of a stronger person within us and we get to leave a lasting legacy for the next generation. Apostle of Love – John reminds us through his exhortations in the scripture to remain in Jesus, he knew there is no better place than in the presence of God, to receive and be soaked in Love. So can I encourage you – my precious reader – to remain in God and in His Love? This one small yet profound act has the ability to transform lives. God bless.
Choose to remain in love and allow love to remain in us.