I have been painfully inconsistent at setting strategically defined goals for my life. Except perhaps for one! When the love of Christ reached down to a broken, battered and hopeless young woman over 40 years ago, her one prayer and goal was, “Lord, teach me to love.”
I am that woman! My ultimate goal is to love — to love well, to love here, to love now.
The Goal is Love
Paul left his young disciple Timothy to bring firm correction to a church that was going off track. Several in the congregation had become “shipwrecked”, rejecting their faith. (I Tim 1:19) It doesn’t seem fair for this mature father of the faith to post such a young man in this difficult position.
From the beginning, Paul sets a solid foundation for Timothy:
“The goal is love,
which comes from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.”
I Timothy 1:5
Imagine the scene! People scampering over each other for leadership status, anxious to be “teachers of the law”. Debaters of every imaginable controversy pushing their way to notoriety. The church was growing in spite of vocal minorities proclaiming twisted spiritual concepts. Exuberant hopefuls were forcing themselves to the front of the line.
I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering for Timothy’s church placement. Sounds like the perfect setting for any young minister to become disillusioned and burned out.
Didn’t he deserve something better? After all, wasn’t he called of God? Wasn’t he ordained into ministry by the most elite group of apostles? Surely being commissioned by Paul himself bore enough weight to guarantee success!
I’m going to be painfully transparent. Just last week in a one-on-one counselling session, a hurting woman sat opposite me. Our meeting was difficult; break through for her was slow, painfully slow. I felt the distinct reprimand of God, “MaryAnn do you have a heart of love? Love here!”
I realized in the busyness of appointment after appointment, I wasn’t stirred with compassion and tenderness toward this brave woman. In a moment, I both repented and humbly asked again, “Lord, teach me to love.”
In an instant my heart changed and so did the direction of our meeting. The woman left finding the hope in Christ, she was so desperately seeking.
The heart of love became a channel of God’s intervention.
Why am I so slow to love? Why is this a lesson so often repeated? What causes my heart to so easily turn toward other missions and focuses?
“The goal is love which comes
from a pure heart…”
Oh! There it is! Instead of pure, my heart becomes infected by personal agenda, selfish desire, arrogant pride … The list is much longer! The pollutants invasive!
With David I pray,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
A Good Conscience
Paul sets a godly example for Timothy,
“So I strive always
to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
A clear conscience doesn’t come naturally, not to Paul and certainly not to us. It takes effort! Only out of this fertile ground of a good conscience will love grow strong and free.
Peter, too, experienced the tenacity required to maintain a good conscience,
“Keep a clear conscience before God
so that when people throw mud at you,
none of it will stick.
They’ll end up realizing
that they’re the ones who need a bath.It’s better to suffer for doing good,
if that’s what God wants,
than to be punished for doing bad.That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins,
the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.
He went through it all –
was put to death and then made alive –
to bring us to God.”
I Peter 3:16-18 MSG
This mud flinging world, when allowed, will pollute not just one’s heart, but one’s conscience as well. “None of it” has to stick! What people say or do cannot restrict our ability to live godly in a godless world.
Love enables such a response to adversity — adversity that Timothy was plunged into!
Christ was Timothy’s example! He is also ours!
“The goal of this command is love,
which comes from …
a sincere faith.”
Undoubtedly, human love reaches far and accomplishes much. However, it only extends in earthly portion.
But there is love that surpasses human comprehension, flowing unhindered, unpolluted from the heart of God who by His very nature is love. Only God’s version spans beyond human capacity to the contentious, the wicked, the loathsome and the broken.
Timothy would need such love. So do we!
Only through a sincere faith, can and will this ultimate command of love be anywhere near possible.
Faith may move mountains,
but love conquers all!
I have witnessed this undefeatable combination of faith and love multiple times — each encounter awe inspiring.
Put faith and love together and nothing is impossible! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said to the man, whose daughter was dying. He approached Jesus with desperately simple and faltering faith.
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
“Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Let’s face it! Love is impossible for us! Only faith makes reaching the command possible. Our dependence is not in our own ability, but rather in Christ’s transforming nature at work in us and through us.
As we look again, we see love is far more than a goal we hopefully achieve in some limited fashion. Love is a command!
“The goal of this command is love …”
That may sound a little forceful given the situation Timothy was being thrust into. Nonetheless, it is a command to love.
“Timothy, my son,
I am giving you this command
in keeping with the prophecies
once made about you,
so that by recalling them
you may fight the battle well.”
I Timothy 1:18
The specific words spoken over Timothy are withheld from our hearing. However, each one of us, as children of God, saved by His grace, have God’s affirming and confirming word through the bible. We may not have heard it from human lips, but God’s truth continually “speaks” into and over us.
As we remember God’s unfathomable grace toward us, we gain the capacity to more than endure — we fight! We fight the battle well!
Fighting for the sake of love may seem a contradiction, but it isn’t! Whatever we do of any value must be done in the context of love! It can feel like warfare as we defend and protect this goal, both inwardly and outwardly.
Love is always worth fighting for!
If God were speaking right now, I think He would personally say to each of us, ” ‘My son, my daughter, I am giving you this command … fight the battle well’ for love.”
“Lord, teach me love,” is my only fitting response.