Mark D. Roberts

1 Corinthians 13 calls us to love like Jesus. Though he is not specifically mentioned in verses 4-7, Jesus is surely the model behind Paul’s exhortation. The love of Jesus is epitomized, most of all, in the cross, in his sacrificial death for our sake. We’re to love based on this model.

Of course that’s much easier said than done. If we’re honest, we who try to follow Jesus’ example of love often come up short. In fact, sometimes we don’t even want to try and love like Jesus. Have you ever wished you didn’t have to be like Jesus? I have, many times over. I don’t like turning the other cheek and, frankly, I’m not very good at it. I don’t like having to forgive people over and over again. And that’s just the beginning. We can all talk about imitating Jesus, but really doing it, especially in the midst of conflict, is just plain tough.

I remember so well an instance in my ministry when I was working with a group in conflict. The arguments were fierce and tempers flared. People were showing selfish attitudes that seemed so unlike what we’re called to in Scripture. Finally I said to the group, “Friends, I’m hearing what you want to do in this situation, but my question is: What do you think Jesus would do here?” One woman blurted out in anger, “I don’t care what Jesus would do. I AM NOT JESUS!”

Part of me wanted to respond: “Well, that’s obvious.” But, by God’s grace, I did not pour even more fuel on the fire of her selfish anger. In fact, I did admire her ironic honesty, I’ve got to say. But it almost seemed to me as if she was saying that since she wasn’t Jesus she didn’t have to act as he would act. That’s just not adequate for a Christian. A better statement would be: “It’s really hard to be like Jesus because I am not Jesus. But I know I’m called to be like him, as tough as it can be. So, Lord, help me! HELP ME BE LIKE JESUS!”

I’ll bet I’ve prayed this prayer at least 200 times in my life, in situations where my patience has run out, where I haven’t wanted to be kind, where I have had a long record of wrongs, and where I’ve cared most of all about my own way. Sometimes, I’m sad to admit, I’ve done what comes naturally and acted in selfishness. But there have been times when I’ve sensed the Lord helping me to be like him. He’s given me patience I just don’t have. He’s helped me to subordinate my agenda to his. He’s allowed me to hear my opponent, not just as someone to be defeated in debate, but as a human being with needs, fears, hurts, and tender desires.

If you’re in the middle of conflict with other Christians right now, I can almost guarantee that you don’t want to be like Jesus. Admittedly, his way isn’t easy. But it’s the way of love, the way of peace, and the way of God.

If you have the courage to try it, take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and use it to measure your own attitudes and behaviors, especially in reference to those with whom you are in conflict. Have you been patient, really? Have you been kind, truly? How has your kindness been expressed to those with whom you differ? Have you been demanding your own way? Are you keeping a record of wrongs? Are you willing to endure no matter what may come your way? Think about it. Pray about it.

Tomorrow I’ll continue my investigation of 1 Corinthians 13 and its implications for conflict among Christians.  

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