How to Live the Bible — Things That Remain When Everything Else Changes
This is the one-hundred-fifth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
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Mel is the author of the upcoming A Chronicle of Grief: Finding Life After Traumatic Loss.
Do you like it one someone tells you that things are about the change? Given human nature, we often worry that change will mean loss. Right now the whole world is going through a health crisis that is shaking people’s confidence. It is change—dramatic change. Some things are lost, and we grieve them. But there things about life that we can count on. That do not change. That remain.
I have thought so many times over the years about what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter my wife and I had read at our wedding. This chapter in Scripture about love speaks honestly about all the things (and the people) who change or pass away. But there are “three things that remain,” Paul says—faith, hope, and love.
Faith. As we go through this global health crisis we must hold onto faith, but not faith in all the small details. For many people, hurricane force winds have stripped away loose and sloppy beliefs and revealed what is at the core of our faith, and it is God himself, in his goodness and his providence. There are benefits in this—to be forced to the center of faith. To let the marginal drift to the margins. To rebuild on foundations.
Hope. We must hold onto hope. Not wishful thinking, but assurances that we will be okay. The belief that good things lie ahead. Hope as trust that we will make it through this. And, of course, there is eternal hope. Real, eternal hope, not the cliches about heaven. We would do well to strip out of our minds the false mental images of eternity as walking in puffy clouds, wearing white robes, surrounded by empty expanses. What an awful image, where heaven is the negation and loss of everything that we love. It still is a mystery far far beyond our comprehension, but the new heavens and the new earth must be fuller and brighter and better than our greatest holy pleasures on earth.
Love. No wonder Paul said that the greatest of these three is love. What is getting us through is the love of God, the love of God through others, and the privilege of loving each other. Not just in the past, but right here, right now. Perhaps we should sense now a greater obligation than ever before to examine whether we are showing more grace and mercy toward others than before. This will not be automatic for any of us. Traumatic loss can easily turn anyone resentful and bitter. This global health crisis will reveal our strengths and weaknesses.
Why is love “the greatest”? Consider this, from 1 Cor. 13:4-8.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
For more on this, see the following teaching on “Things That Remain.”
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.
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