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What’s love got to do with it?

12 June 2022

It’s almost the stuff of legend.  That moment when someone comes up to you in church and says “I want to tell you something in love…”.  Someone you barely know, perhaps.  That person you have heard about from others…and now it’s your turn.


You furtively glance around for an ally or escape route.  Perhaps you put on your best impression of what I am going to call a ‘Grace Face’.  I have experienced this phrase at its best, a gentle and loving correction from someone whose care for me was demonstrated not just in that moment, but in the grace they extended for my apology and in the many other moments before and after.  Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).  I want to talk about one of the other times.


I hadn’t been saved very long, but I threw myself into every opportunity given to me as a teenager.  One such occasion, I was asked to help out at a Bible College convention. A couple of us lads from the youth group were asked to sleep in the massive tent that had been set up for the gathering, in order that the PA equipment, instruments and other items might still be in the tent the next morning.  It was a rough area. 


At the end of the meeting, we were helping to tidy up when an elderly gentleman approached in a rumpled but very formal suit.  He called me over and proceeded without warning to fire volleys of scripture at me along with a barrage of questions and statements (in love, of course) about the inadequacy of my scriptural knowledge.  He described the problem with young men generally (this was vague, but left no doubt that we were failing in some very important but ill-defined ways) and was constantly asking if could I be sure I was even really saved, a question sometimes repeated as I was trying to answer him.  It was bewildering.  Abruptly - with a curt nod over his shoulder in my general direction - he headed for the very exit I had been trying to ignore since he started talking to me.  His name was Mr Flood.  Seriously.


One of the Bible College staff had seen the exchange and came up to me.  Mr Flood, he explained, saw it as a solemn duty to educate young men, and I was encouraged not to be upset by what had happened.  He would - I was told - carry this on for every night of the five days of the convention, choosing a different person every evening.  Mr Flood (I was assured) loved the Lord.


I was hurt and pretty angry, to be honest.  I remember saying that perhaps someone should design a convention shirt that said, ‘I Survived the Flood at Emmanuel Bible College Convention.’  People laughed.  I felt a bit better.  The thing is that I was aware that some of what he had said was true.  I didn’t know my Bible well enough, and I wasn’t doing much about it either.  I was aware that I still had a duality in my life - areas where I had not allowed God to have His way because I was too busy having mine.


It can be too easy to dismiss a rebuke because of the person who has said it, my indignity over being challenged, or the stresses that I am carrying.  If that’s something you can identify with, perhaps you will recognise one of the next steps.  We deflect.  We deny.  We defend. 


It isn’t wrong to test the word we are given (1 John 4:1) but we also need to consider ourselves with sober judgement (Romans 12:3).  Paul has a lot to say to the church in Corinth, and some of it can’t have been easy for them to hear.  Paul speaks to them from a place of love.  That love Paul had for the Lord and his love for this young church are present in each and every encouragement and instruction… as well as in every rebuke.  In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul wants to talk about love.


Without love, Paul states, the languages of earth and angels are hollow and discordant (v1).  A prophet with supernatural knowledge and a faith that could move mountains?  Paul is in no doubt such a man would be nothing without love (v2).  A life of self-deprivation, devoid of possessions and with no regard for his own safety gains nothing if such a life is not motivated by love.  Love, Paul writes...


"is patient and kind.  Love isn’t jealous, boastful or proud. It isn’t rude, doesn’t insist on its own way, doesn’t get irritated and keeps no record of wrongs.  It rejoices in the truth, not injustice and it never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance." (v4-7).


I may wonder sometimes if the person speaking to me has read this, but here is the challenge:  I have read it.  Even if the person speaking to me is not speaking in and through God’s love, I can still listen with that supernatural love that God places in my heart.


Paul’s words are not just advice on how to speak out, but an encouragement to ensure that all that we do as disciples of Christ is steeped in that overflowing love that comes from our Father.  Even if someone doesn’t speak in love, or speaks in a way that I can’t perceive as  love, I can remember Paul’s encouragement to be humble and patient and make allowances for another’s faults because of my love for them (Ephesians 4:2).  I can still listen in love: patient, kind, truth rejoicing, relentless, hopeful and enduring love.  A love that forgoes jealousy, boastfulness and pride, that won’t be rude or irritable and will keep no record of wrong.


God allowed some of the words spoken to me on that night to fall away and all of the hurt went, too.  But some words remained.  I started to study the Bible with a new vigour and hunger, got involved in mission trips in the UK and abroad.  And Mr Flood, now long gone to glory, brought a challenge to a very new Christian that helped me to move on to more of what God had planned for my life.  For that, I am grateful.

Photo of Mark Melhado

Mark Melhado

Youth Pastor
GoChurch Manchester