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Rainbows, Flags, and the Immeasurable Love and Grace of God. Yes, #LoveWins

Rainbow Flag

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in American culture. As one guy on Facebook put it, “My newsfeed looks like the confederate army declared war on a Skittles factory.” We’ve certainly seen a lot of flags and rainbows. And rainbow flags, of course.

Not because you haven’t heard, but for the sake of context, the Supreme Court of the United States did indeed make a history-altering decision on Friday, June 26, 2015, declaring that states could no longer ban same-sex couples from civil marriage.

Then the internet blew up. People were happy. And angry. And confused about whether they should be happy or angry. In the middle of it all, President Barack Obama tweeted using the hashtag #LoveWins and millions followed suit. The White House was lit up with rainbow-colored lights, as were Niagara Falls, Cinderella’s Castle, the Empire State Building, and many, many, maaaany social profile photos.

As leprechauns scurried around in utter confusion and unicorns danced with glee, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ancient history of the rainbow, going all the way back to the story where it made its scriptural debut. Long before the rainbow flag became the symbol of the gay pride movement (1978, to be exact), God used the rainbow to communicate that #LoveWins to a primitive family desperately in need of reassurance.

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True Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

True love – God’s kind of love – is both possible and impossible at the same time. It’s possible to love people the way God does when we’re living under His truth and grace and in His power. We know this because He commands us to love and defines it for us in explicit terms, and He never commands us to do that which He will not also enable us to do.

Then again, there are aspects of love that seem so far beyond reach. In particular, real love includes the ability to truly, completely forgive a person to the degree that we never, ever remind them of their former faults again. “Love keeps no record of being wronged,” the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5. In other words, real love really forgives, not just temporarily, but forever.

We humans continually demonstrate our utter failure to truly forgive, and resentment is a toxin that poisons even the strongest of relational bonds. We claim the right to hold grudges and justify our record-keeping ability on the basis of what seems fair and just. But the God of justice and truth has gone first in this area.

God, who alone has every right not to forgive us for our rebellion against Him, has set the ultimate example, justifying us and declaring us not guilty by transferring the record of our wrongs to Jesus on the cross. And once we’ve accepted His payment and turned to Him in complete trust, He expunges our records and promises that “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12 NLT)

Real, true, unconditional God-like love does the same for others. Real love doesn’t remind someone of their past or flaunt their weaknesses before them. Real love lets it go. This doesn’t mean allowing abuse without accountability. It simply means that we yield our right to be vindicated for the good of the guilty, and ultimately for our own good too.

Who do you need to love and to forgive?

True Love Is Selfless

“Me first!!” Who hasn’t heard a toddler say that? And every year on Black Friday, millions of adults prove that this is not merely a toddler problem. From birth, we fight to be first. Selflessness is a learned behavior. And selflessness is at the root of what real love is all about – God’s kind of love.

“Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way.” So wrote Paul in his definition of what true love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. When you’re looking for love in this world, look for those who are selfless, who sacrifice their right to be right and to be first. Sometimes the essence of love is boiled down to this one big decision – setting self aside for others.

Paul used several phrases to expand on love’s selfless qualities. Real love isn’t jealous. That is, it doesn’t demand to be the sole object of one’s attention and devotion but instead shares the limelight. Love isn’t boastful and doesn’t concern itself with making sure everyone knows of its greatness. Real love isn’t proud and doesn’t demand praise from others. Real love isn’t rude and is willing to be inconvenienced to defer to others. And real love doesn’t demand its own way but makes room for the opinions and viewpoints of others.

If I’m jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude, or if I’m demanding my own way, I’m not being loving. Jesus demonstrated these qualities perfectly. While as God, Jesus has a right to be jealous of our affection and as King He has a right to demand to be the center of attention, Jesus lived out an alternative value. He continually chose to act in unselfish ways. He touched the untouchable, hung out with the hurting, spent time with people trapped in sin, and gave Himself repeatedly to other people. And then He epitomized selfless love by laying down His life, enduring the pain and humiliation of the cross, so that He could pay the price of our selfishness and die for our sins.

True love is selfless, and it’s exemplified by Jesus. He invites us to receive and enjoy His love, and calls us to emulate it by serving and sharing the good news with the rest of the world!

True Love Is Kind

Love hurts, right? Well, sort of. It hurts to love someone who doesn’t return our love and God knows this all too well, but when the Bible says that “Love is kind” in 1 Corinthians 13:4, God is letting us know that love, as He defines it, doesn’t seek to harm people.

Remember that love is more than an uncontrollable feeling. Love is a choice and love is action. And real love chooses to act toward others in ways that are kind rather than in ways that are harmful. When someone in our life is controlling, abusive, or manipulative, they aren’t being loving. When we get mean, we aren’t being loving, no matter how much we may claim that we are “in love.”

Kindness is also a part of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s something that we display as we grow in our sensitivity to God’s working and leading in our lives. God Himself has taken the initiative to show His great kindness toward us by offering us the gift of eternal life through the sacrificial death of His own Son, Jesus. It is His overwhelming kindness that leads us to fall before Him in repentance and gratitude and praise. This kindness of God was put on display in the life of Jesus who healed, served, taught, blessed, touched, and loved a generation of Jewish people in a way they’d never truly experienced before.

Have you experienced, personally, the kindness of God by trusting Him for your salvation? He wants to receive you into His family and teach you how to love others in ways you’ve never been capable of before. But He’s too kind to push you into something you don’t want. In His kindness, He lets you choose to love Him back or not.

True Love Waits With and For People

“Love is patient.” So declares Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4, a passage that serves as God’s defining statement about love. True love is patient, but what does patient love look like? I think it includes two ideas, both of which are more difficult than what we are accustomed to living out naturally.

First, true love waits with people. That is, we love people by staying by their side during times of unrest and uncertainty. Love compels us to wait for dreams to come true for those close to us, to sit by the bedside of our sick loved ones, and to endure painful circumstances alongside those who would otherwise face them alone.

And second, true love waits for people. Rather than forcing change upon a person by pressure or coercion, real love allows people time to grow and to mature. This is far more difficult. This is the kind of patience that makes room for differences and annoyances and pet peeves. Real love also respects the boundaries God has put in place for healthy, timely growth. To be more blunt, real love never, ever pressures someone for more intimacy – especially physical and sexual intimacy – than what is appropriate.

Love patiently waits for and with people. God proves this every second He waits on the final establishment of His own Kingdom. Each moment of this earthly interim is an extension of God’s loving, gracious invitation to come to life in Jesus for one more nonbeliever.