There was an observation made recently in another post regarding ‘love’ that the apostle Paul spoke of, contrasted against the love of a parent toward a child, and in this comparison, Paul’s brand of love came up as it were, ahem, miserably short. It is interesting for two reasons.
One, because this idea is narrow and selfish, secondly, because a high level of hypocrisy must be utilized to even suggest such a thing.
In a conversation with an unbeliever, and using 1 Corinthians 13 as a springboard, a friend asked this fair question:
“Do you truly know more than Paul did about this one subject we’re speaking of?”
And this immediate response was given:
‘Paul made it clear that he felt that sex was something people should avoid if possible. He seems to never have known the love of a woman, and never sat by the bedside of his children, as I have, and just watched them sleep, totally immersed in the beauty of what they were, what they had been, and the anticipation of what they might be, so yes, I do believe, whether I can state it elegantly or not, that I know far more about love than Paul ever dreamt of.’
Most would read this and say it is one description of love, but I suggest at the end of the day, when examined with the love that Paul wrote of and experienced, it is simply selfish and narrow. The love of a woman and children, ok I get that. The innocence of the young being totally under ones charge, like a hen and chicks, yes I get it.
Would it be fair to assume because Paul had no wife, nor a brood of young ones to watch over, that he was unqualified to speak on love? If you read the life and times of Paul, this is indeed a foolish question.
The love of a woman, and care for the young, again who would argue, but is not this the common way of life? Nobody is trying to short-circuit or under appreciate natural affection, but in Paul’s own words, there is always a more excellent way.
I would venture a guess and say not only did Paul know of love, but he knew of an exceedingly great love. Did he not care for the young in their spiritual progression? Did he not care for Timothy as His own son in the faith? Did he not spend sleepless nights brooding over the new-born in the faith? Was not his love for his kinsmen so great that he said he wished he could be accursed for them?
Paul was an evangelist, pastor, teacher, apostle, and prophet. As a harbinger of the gospel, he loved the souls of men, and was spent day and night for Jew and Gentile alike; he loved the hearts of men, and he wanted all to know of the immeasurable love of God as revealed in the word of God, through the person of the Lord Christ.
Through time, teaching, experience, and revelation Paul writes:
‘For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, and things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Uh, the sleeping baby may not (God forbid) live until next week, what then becomes of the parents love? If there is no God, then it would stand to reason the love is separated. Not so with the love of God, for it is eternal, just as is His nature. Is it any wonder that Paul wanted to share this joy with as many as He could?
The love of a woman? Good of course, but she may divorce you. You may tell her ‘goodbye.’ The love of children? Good, but they may grow to despise you. Will you love the woman as much when she wants no part of you? You see, there was this man named Adam…
The love Paul spoke of was greater because of its source as well as its object. The love Paul knew was outside of time, it is pure, and circumstances could not alter it, for in Christ, love is as secure as the throne of God.
When Paul stood before King Agrippa, he recounted: ‘I THOUGHT with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth,’ as Paul had plans to hale in prison all the ‘traitors,’ but heaven had other plans as he was arrested by the Lord on High, and now he was called to share the INHERITANCE of the Lord he once despised.
He would learn of love in many dimensions, previously unknown to himself, as he was very familiar with the letter, being blameless as a matter of fact, but he knew nothing of the spirit of the law, until his blind eyes were opened.
Paul said this, not only because it was true, but because he loved this truth:
‘If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.’
‘The same love, one accord, one mind.’ Sounds like music. And is the apostles charge to men diminished in the least because he had no wife, or was it heightened because of a more nobler truth? Honesty will supply the correct answer.
‘Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.’
Would you give your life for your spouse? For your child? You probably would. But would you give your life for your neighbor who has caused you nothing but harm and evil? Would you give your life for your sworn enemy who has done nothing but lie, steal, malign, accuse, and take your wife? Ah, now the picture is more clear. Now take another look at the thought which suggested this post:
‘I do believe, whether I can state it elegantly or not, that I know far more about love than Paul ever dreamt of.’
So why do I say this is a tad selfish and hypocritical? Because a person makes this assertion without knowing the love of which Paul speaks, without believing the love in which Paul speaks, and finally, he writes off Paul’s testimony as a fable. Me? I’m going with the love of God as revealed through scripture.
A person says with a straight face that Paul knew so little of love. Ouch, ugh, and a bundle of sighs.
‘Charity suffers long. Charity is kind. It does not envy. It is not proud. Charity does not behave unseemly. Charity does not seek charity. It is not provoked easily. Charity does not rejoice in evil. It does however rejoice in the truth. Charity bears all things. Believes all things. Hopes all things. Charity endures all things. Charity never fails. Faith, hope and charity abides, but the greatest of these is charity.’
In this description given by Paul through the Spirit of God, we see that love is unconditional, and it does not come with strings or asterisks. A person who says that Paul knew nothing of love suffers from spiritual myopia, and I say this with the utmost restraint. And oh, for what it’s worth, Paul had a LOVE of the truth unlike any other; would to God I was so equipped.