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Love is not Boastful or Arrogant

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant… 1 Corinthians 13:4a,b,c

Two of the characteristics Paul lists as representing what love is NOT are boastful and arrogant. I will address them together because they are similar traits. In general, one boasts out of one’s arrogance. Although I did not consciously plan it this way, what better week to consider boastfulness and arrogance than the week of the start of the presidential primaries in the United States! Obviously, boasting and arrogance are not the exclusive domain of either political party, nor of a specific gender, age group, or ethnicity – all of the candidates display these traits to a troubling extent, at least it is troubling to me.

As a country, we want leaders who are accomplished and confident. Winning elections is about convincing voters that one’s experience is evidence of their ability to do the job well, as well as selling one’s vision of a better future. Educating an audience about one’s accomplishments can easily deteriorate into boastful bluster, however, particularly when one is insecure about those accomplishments, or when others are questioning those accomplishments. In a similar way, our attempts to display confidence can very quickly devolve into a show of blatant arrogance. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and many – including the non-candidates among us – find ourselves crossing back and forth with regularity.

Yet, I digress. This series of Life Notes is about love, not politics. Even so, we live in a politicized world. What would a candidate who based his or her campaign on love look like? I am not referring to love of country, as in patriotism, but a genuine love of humankind – all of humankind regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion – everyone! I am talking about a Jesus-kind-of-love. Such a candidate would reach out to the poor, the sick, the lost, the lonely, and the sinners. Of course, Jesus also spent time with tax-collectors – likely the wealthy of the day – but never to the exclusion of the excluded. Our candidate of love would be patient and kind, even to and especially with his or her attackers. Would such a candidate have a chance of winning a national election? Sadly, I fear not.

Paul’s writings about love make it obvious that becoming more loving requires becoming more vulnerable. A loving person will not brag about their own accomplishments because they have no need or desire to make themselves appear superior. Loving people are humble and recognize everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We are only as strong as the ties binding us together. Love requires mutual vulnerability, but vulnerability does not win elections. It does win hearts, however, while boasting and arrogance isolate them.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

 

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Life Notes—January 3, 2013 

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 

Much has been made in the past weeks of the ‘fiscal cliff,’ with warnings of higher taxes, return to recession and all manner of doom and gloom.  In the past 48 hours, much has also been made of the ‘heroic’ efforts of national officials for their efforts in steering our nation away from this cliff.  Of course, the fiscal cliff has not really been avoided, but our progress towards it has apparently been slowed, at least for a time.

Money is the lifeblood of our government and economy.  Without sufficient funding, the government can neither adequately provide the services we have all come to depend upon, like national security and interstate highways, nor fund other services counted on by many, such as food stamps, healthcare and pensions.  Money to fund the government comes primarily from two sources—taxes paid and, increasingly common of late, borrowing.  Without a sufficient flow of its lifeblood—money—the government cannot continue to function, so it faces three undesirable and difficult choices—increase taxes, decrease spending or borrow more money.  Obviously, there are degrees of undesirability for each of these options and no consensus on which degree of each is best.  The current fiscal cliff was created some time ago by a convergence of expiring tax cuts, mandatory spending reductions, and a legal limit on the government’s ability to borrow money.  Combined, they threaten the life of our government by restricting its lifeblood.

But that is government.  What about individual lives?  Is there a spiritual cliff looming ahead of us?  Many would answer with an emphatic “Yes!” and for many different reasons.  If we believe our individual lifeblood is the Spirit then we can draw a spiritual analogy to the fiscal cliff.  We all require a two-way flow—a relationship, if you will—with the Holy Spirit.  By its flow through us we are animated and sustained.  There are ways we can increase that flow—through worship, study and prayer.  Likewise, there are ways the Spirit flows out of us—stress, anxiety, poor health habits, to name a few.  We can borrow “Spirit” from others sometimes, from those generous souls who love and support us.  But at some point we, like our government, must establish a healthy balance between the inflow and outflow of our lifeblood.  If your life seems to be trending downward, maybe you’ve gotten a little too close to the edge of the spiritual cliff…

Tom will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch returns to the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title is “Covenant, Part 1,” based on Genesis 9:8-17.  Communion will be served at all worship services.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Step away from the edge and refill your spiritual cup.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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