“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel…Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor. 4:14-21 NKJV…………….
Love wears many forms, doesn’t it? It shows up in all sorts of ways, don’t you think? Love is love, but it doesn’t always look, or feel, or sound or seem the same way. But it all comes back to being love in its essence, in its nature, in its being, in its presence, in its manifestation, in the fruit it bears, it is love in the foundation, love in the roots, love in the trunk, love in the branches, it is love when it is thought about, contemplated, expressed, and experienced, it all comes back to love, and true love, the kind that matters, is all originated from, and borne of, the Lord. And love is something to which each and every one of us is called, that we would love the Lord with all our hearts – and to love others in obedience to Him. Sometimes love is tough, dear friend, and sometimes love is gentle, sometimes it is both, and sometimes it falls somewhere in between. The Lord who is the source of all love that matters is the same Lord who by His Spirit will show us the way of love, and give us the strength for love, and give His followers His love itself to be expressed, and lead us in how He desires His love to pour through us and out onto others, that it would be expressed as He desires to whom He desires when He desires for His purpose and glory. And, when we fall short of being the vessel of His love He desires, of expressing His love the way He wants, whether gently or firmly or any way at all, we need to seek His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others and purpose it in our hearts to go forth learning day by day to love as He so leads us.
Looking back at my life, I know there were times I was gentle in loving people and should have been firm. There were times I was firm with people and should have been gentle. There were also times when people loved me in a firm way when they should have been gentle, and other times people loved me in a gentle way when they should have been firm. But the past is gone now, isn’t it? And it’s not about how we loved in the past, but instead about how we love this very day.
For those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit who lives inside us will guide us in the way of loving Him as well as in the way of loving others, and He will show us when to be tough – and when to be gentle. Sometimes in life’s toughest situations we may feel the most compelled to be tough in loving someone, but it’s in these very tough situations the Spirit of God may well lead us instead to be gentle. Let us submit ourselves to the Lord and let His Spirit guide us in how we love – and to show us when it is we in fact need to be gentle in the way we express love to another. Be gentle, friend, in loving that person, and those people, if the Lord so leads you. When He calls us to be gentle, He knows why. Not only allow Christ’s love to pour into and through you, but may you express His love to others exactly how He desires – including gently when it is His perfect will.
In the verses above, the apostle Paul was compelled to speak to the people with love and gentleness. Other times, he spoke with a firm and tough rebuke. Who led him to know when to speak in which manner? Who told him when to be gentle? Was it not the Spirit of God? May it be so with each and every one of us – that we submit to the Lord most high!