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What’s the greater gift? (Lecture II “Charity and Its Fruits”)

Which would you rather receive?

(A) extraordinarily huge acts of love, but only one per year, or
(B) much smaller acts of kindness, but given to you every day

I’d choose (B). Mother Teresa loves

The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s a question that entered my mind from reading Jonathan Edward’s Lecture II, “Charity is more excellent than the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

He was echoing Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 13.

If you put, side by side, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit and the ordinary gift of Christian love by the same Spirit, which is the better gift? Christian love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
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.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2

It’s no knock to the miraculous gifts. They were from God and were for definite purposes and extraordinary situations. 

But even speaking in tongues and gifts of prophecy and faith were not to be preferred to the more excellent gift: love.

If God would give me the gift of healing for one week only, it would be an incredible honor. But don’t I understand that having his garden-variety gift of loving for the rest of my life is an even greater honor?

The healing gift would be outside of me, whereas having God work his “grace of charity” in my heart is an inside job.

It changes who I am, not just what I’m able to do.

It transforms me into the image of Christ. And it lasts forever (1 Cor 13:8)

It reminds me of another thought I sometimes have:
Wouldn’t it have been better to have lived during earlier days (Moses’ time, for instance) and seen first-hand the miracles in Egypt and seen the Red Sea split open, and seen manna coming from the sky?

But I ultimately decide, “No.

When the unnamed woman in the crowd (Luke 11:27-28) yelled to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you!” Jesus replied that those who hear the word of God and keep it are even more blessed.

And when Thomas believed Jesus was Lord because he saw and touched Jesus’ pierced side, Jesus answered, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

Jesus was talking about me. You. Now. Blessed.

The agape love in 1 Corinthians 13 may not sound as flashy as prophesying or seem as productive as understanding all mysteries, but it is God-glorifying for his people to love others day in and day out with a kind of spirit that those in the world are missing.

I don’t need to take this gift for granted or underrate it.

When we read in the Scriptures of the great privileges conferred on the virgin Mary, and on the apostle Paul, when he was caught up into the third heaven, we are ready to admire such privileges as very great.

But after all, they are as nothing compared with the privilege of being like Christ, and having his love in the heart.
~ Jonathan Edwards

His love—in my heart—it’s the more excellent blessing, the greater gift.

* * *

Lecture III: The greatest performances or sufferings in vain without charity

Notes from previous chapters
Notes from Laurie on this chapter


Dorothy said...

I love your perspective on this, Lisa. I am called to a "ministry of availability." I just try to be available to meet the needs (and isn't love the biggest one) of those God puts in my ordinary day to day life. No big title or flashy gift, just being there.

Lisa notes... said...

What a great ministry: the ministry of availability! It's a very needed one. What a blessing that you recognize it as such, and that you make the choice to "be there" as needed.


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