From the earliest days of childhood, we’ve expressed our demands. Whether through wordless cries or foot-stomping tantrums. We want what we want right now. Which makes our next “Love is” from 1 Corinthians 13 a bit on the difficult side. Love isn’t always me first (msg) or Love does not seek its own (nasb). Perhaps closest to Paul’s meaning is the NLT, “Love does not demand its own way.”
As we grow older, we learn to temper our demands so we can get along with others. We learn that taking turns is fair play and adopt other rules. But lurking in the background is always that desire to gain what we want. Even going as far as pushing others aside with “it’s my right to…” Sometimes rightly so, but more often to justify and codify our wants and demands.
Love tempers our wants differently. Instead of masking our demands behind a veneer of civility, love forces us to consider others first. Even allowing someone to go ahead of us without feeling wronged in the process. There is a sacrificial quality to this aspect of love that is not immediately visible.
It doesn’t really cost us anything to let someone merge into our lane or go ahead of us in the checkout lane. Maybe a little time, but nothing else. But there are times when this aspect of love requires great sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this at the cross.
Jesus could have demanded his rights to life and called legions of angels to set things right for Him (Matthew 26:53). He instead set aside His rights for our benefit. Jesus wasn’t seeking His own wants during His trial, torture, and death. He laid those aside so that we may discover, embrace, and enjoy God.
We may never be challenged to sacrifice our wants and demands as Christ did. But every day we have opportunity to seek and act in ways that benefit others more than ourselves. Some may only cost us a little time. But others may cost us a boost in our reputation, or they may dip into our resources, or they may delay something we’ve long desired, or it may mean sacrificing a right for a time or for always.
Earlier in 1st Corinthians Paul put it this way, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24, NASB95) He said this in the context of whether one should eat meat sacrificed to idols. Or to put it in a more modern light, to avoid doing something which violates the conscious convictions of someone else even though I do not share that conviction. I should add that these are not social or cultural convictions but Holy Spirit driven convictions. Love leads me to forego the triple fudge chocolate cake which I would love to have when I know that my friend or neighbor has a God-given conviction that eating triple fudge chocolate cake is a sin and my eating would cause them to stumble. Sorry for the terribly long sentence.
But let’s reverse the above scenario because it works the other way around as well. Love is letting someone else partake of something without judgment when we recognize that they are free of conviction even though I am bound by conviction. In that instance, love is sacrificing the right to judge. You see, our judgments are often made to make us feel good about ourselves rather than about bringing loving correction to another person. More often than not we are seeking our own righteousness, our own feelings of superiority because, in our estimation, their sin is worse than our sin.
We often struggle with knowing the right thing to do for someone else. The decider is love. For instance, sometimes love dictates we give to the sign-holding beggar; other times love dictates that we offer a hand up instead of giving a handout. Love is doing the best for another person, even if that costs me something valuable and desired. Love does not demand its own way