Reclaiming Love by Ajith Fernando

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1 Corinthians 13 guides Ajith Fernando’s pastoral reflections on a basic yet profound biblical concept---love. Peppered with examples of God’s radical love lived out in Fernando’s native home, the war-torn nation of Sri Lanka, readers will rediscover God’s profound love and see how believers display that love in difficult real-world situations. "Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World" is written by Ajith Fernando. Introduction by Ravi Zacharias.

Transcript of Reclaiming Love by Ajith Fernando

Contents

Bible Translations Used . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Foreword by Ravi Zacharias . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Introduction: Following the Way of Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 1. Greater Than Spectacular Gifts . . . . . . . . 27 2. Greater Than R adical Commitment . . . 33 3. Patience with Weaknesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 4. Patience with Sin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 5. Patience Encountering Justice . . . . . . . . . 58 6. Concern in Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 7. Is It Worth Showing Kindness? . . . . . . . . . 74 8. Env y Versus Showing Honor . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 9. Accepting Who We Are: The Antidote to Env y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 10. Sharing without Boasting . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 11. Arrogance: A Sign of Weakness . . . . . . . . 108 12. Sensitivity to Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 13. Victory through Surrender. . . . . . . . . . . 124

14. Anger: The Vice of the Virtuous . . . . . . . 131 15. Learning the Discipline of Not Reckoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 16. Love Focuses on the Truth, Not on Wrong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 17. Loves Persever ance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 18. Gr ace-Filled: Neither Gullible Nor Cynical . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 19. Its Worth It! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183

Preface

During three and a half decades of ministry in Youth for Christ and in the church to which we belong, God seems to have chosen to send our way many people who are bruised and battered from the dysfunctional environments in which they grew up. Helping nurture them to follow the Christian ethic of love has been a great challenge, and I have seen much failure along the way. But I have also seen some who have been transformed to become Christlike people. Moreover, we have had to live with the ravages of the civil war that engulfed our country for thirty years. So I have been grappling with the question of how we can apply the biblical teachings about love in such situations for many years. Working with extreme situations has, I believe, yielded insights that will help all Christians even those who havent gone through the extremely painful experiences of the people I have encountered. This is what made me decide to share the results of my grappling with a wider audience. The one fundamental of the Christian faith with which I have struggled most is that it is possible to practice what the Word of God teaches about love and holiness. Applying this truth in my personal life and in the lives of those among whom I have ministered has been, to put it mildly, a challenge. Whenever I preach on 1Corinthians 13, Ive had to preach first to myself. Many of those to whom we have ministered, coming from tough backgrounds, have ended up on the staff of Youth for Christ. Trying to disciple and pastor them has been my major ministry challenge during the past few years. We have been happy to see a somewhat better rate of success with our staff. I started teaching on 1Corinthians 13 about thirty years ago. I first began to teach it to our staff and volunteers and then to a wider spectrum of audiences both in Sri Lanka and abroad. I realized that I must put the material I was teaching into writing. I am grateful for a month I spent at

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Hollywood Presbyterian Church in 2001, where I was able to hide and write another book while preaching on 1Corinthians 13. This gave me the opportunity to start preparing a series on love afresh. I am happy to be working with Zondervan again and benefitting from their professional expertise. I want to express my gratitude for some of the greatest human beings through whom Gods love was modeled and mediated to my life. I thank God for the family in which I grew up. Whenever I think of my parents and siblings, it has always been with joyous gratitude. I also thank God for my pastor during my teenage years, Irish missionary the late Rev. George Good, whose life exemplified the beauty of Christian love. He preached a wonderful series on 1Corinthians 13 at a pastors conference during the early years of my ministry that alerted me to the potency of this passage. I have often felt joyfully unworthy of receiving so much love and security from [my wife, Nelun,] our children, Nirmali and Asiri, and the family of Youth for Christ, of which I have been privileged to be a member for forty-six years. Nelun and I feel that with this privilege comes the responsibility and call to minister Gods love to bruised and broken people. In this process it has been a joy to observe how Nelun lives 1Corinthians 13 in practice better than I ever could. I have dedicated this book to our two children-in-law, whom we have joyfully grafted into our family and whose love we have received with much joy and gratitude. Finally, how could I ever write on love without acknowledging the astounding display of love by God in providing for us a way of salvation, in displaying his amazing love in the life of Jesus, and in pouring out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit? His love is what empowers us and helps us to express radical love in a complex world. Note: I have made slight changes in the details of some of the stories in this book so that what actually happened would be communicated without the risk of the persons described in the story being identified.

1 Corinthi ans 12:31 13:13English Standard Versionearnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.12:31But

I N TROD U CTION

Following the Way of Love1 CO RI N THI ANS 1 2:31

If you have ever been in the midst of a deeply focused conversation on a particular topic, only to have it abruptly ended when someone brings up something new for discussion, you know how frustrating it feels to be interrupted. At other times, however, we are more than happy to be interrupted. When someone interrupts our work to share good news, announcing an engagement or the birth of a baby, we are excited to hear what they have to share. In my homeland of Sri Lanka, for example, no one minds in the least if you break into a conversation with a cricket score (though that might not be true elsewhere in the world). First Corinthians 13 falls into that category of interruption. First Corinthians 12 and 14 address issues that had arisen in the church of Corinth about the use of the gifts of the Spirit. There is an abrupt change in the middle of that discussion with the insertion of the famous love chapter. The Corinthian Christians seem to have placed so much value in exercising gifts that displayed the power of God in their life that they did so selfishly and failed to display the character of God. Paul wants these Christians to get their priorities straight. First they needed to be godly people. Only then they could be agents of his power.

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God Provides the Love We ObeyPaul founded the church in Corinth around the midpoint of the first century, during his second missionary journey. A few years later he received some disturbing reports about doctrinal confusion and disturbing practices and sins in that church (1Cor. 5:1; 11:18). The Corinthian Christians also wrote him a letter seeking clarification on certain doctrinal and practical matters (cf. 7:1). The first letter to the Corinthians is Pauls response to these reports and to the letter the church in Corinth had sent. Among the issues in their letter were questions about the use of the gifts of the Spirit in the church (12:1). This issue seems to have triggered some conflicts in the church. Pauls answer to these questions covers 1Corinthians 12 to 14. Chapters 12 and 14 deal with practical issues regarding the use of gifts. In chapter 13 Paul inserts into his exposition something far more important than gifts that the Corinthians should be focusing their attention on: love. Believers in the church at Corinth seem to have had a hierarchy of gifts, depending on the usefulness of each gift to the church. Pauls majo