Friday, November 13, 2015

Charity suffers long

I  waited outside in the parking lot of a small rural church on a cold Monday morning. The pastor was was a friend of mine and we had planned to meet in his office to fellowship together and catch up on life and ministry.

He was late. When he finally pulled into the parking lot, it was 45 minutes after the time we agreed upon. As he stepped out of his car and began walking to the church door, I noticed his head hung low and his shoulders drooped. He didn't even wave or acknowledge that I was there. I knew something was wrong.

When we got into his office I started with general chit chat. It was like pulling teeth. He stared off into the distance and sometimes didn't even respond to my questions and conversational promptings. Finally, I leaned forward and put my hand on his shoulder to get his attention. "Brother, what's going on?"

For the next 3 hours this brother-pastor recounted the struggles in his church. People were at war with each other. A deacon had accosted him after the Sunday evening service and verbally lashed out at the pastor because the offerings were down. Some of the founding members of the church were circulating a petition for his removal. He had spent the early hours of that morning trying to help a young couple who had lost their prenatal baby during the night. On top of all this, he recently learned his rebellious teenage daughter was sexually active and unrepentant.

During that conversation he looked at me and said "I'm done! This isn't worth it." While I heard those words, I also knew the man before me. He was just discouraged. Deeply so. But I also understood that words have power, and he was in desperate need of better words.

I opened Scripture to 1 Corinthians 13:4. While there are several verses in that section which are powerful, I only read the three words: "love is patient." I actually like the way the King James Version renders that phrase: "charity suffereth long."

For the next hour we talked about God's view of love. Unlike how the world defines the word, biblical love is marked by patience. It bears, endures, and is in it for the long haul. While the KJV word "charity" is perhaps an outdated way of saying love, there is something beneficial about the word. Too often we turn the word "love" into a feeling, whereas the word "charity" implies an action. True, this pastor had no power to change his situation, but he had the power to show love. Perhaps his teenage daughter would refuse to accept his love. Perhaps his deacon would also refuse to accept it. After all, the world refused to accept Christ's supreme act of love. But he still had the power to show it.

Maybe today you feel defeated. Powerless. But if you are a believer, God has placed something in you that endures. It is the power to love for the long haul...especially when things get difficult.

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