Foursquare love

(This article applies the principles mentioned at the end of the blog entitled: ‘Relationships – shedding light on a complex issue‘, using the four facets of love offered by Tom Marshall in his book about Christian relationships.)

  1. Respect

What are the biblical ingredients in true respect?

[] ‘. . . take delight in honouring each another,’  Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:10 (New Living Translation) – an attitude we should nurture in marriage (Ephesians 5:3, Hebrews 13:4 and 1 Peter 3:7), and family life (Ephesians 6:2; Exodus 20:12), and in the Christian community (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, as we encourage each other verbally, especially ‘your leaders in the Lord’s work’). Respect also avoids favouritism (see James 2:9) – unless, as the late entertainer Bruce Forsyth used to tell each pair of competitors on his T.V. game show, ‘You‘re my favourites.’ I often thank the Lord that all his children are his favourites.

  1. Trust

Of course, one’s trustworthiness can take time to prove. And it is an essential quality that all leaders should develop. Moral lapses can be devastating to those in their care; it is always difficult to restore trust after it has been marred. For instance, after young John Mark went home to mummy, when Uncle ‘Barnabas . . . wanted to take [him] along’ on a later mission trip, ‘Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work’ (Acts 15:36-38).

Trust is the most fragile of the four elements. Although forgiveness is the work of a moment, restoration is a process that takes time. In his last surviving letter, Paul wrote to Timothy from prison; when telling him about his loneliness, he pleaded, ‘Timothy, please come as soon as you can’ and ‘Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:9, 11).

Trust incorporates confidence. In Proverbs 31:10-12, ‘a virtuous and capable wife . . . is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life . . . all the days of her life.’ (Compare 2 Corinthians 7:4, 16; 8:22).

Loyalty, including faithfulness [= dependability, reliability, consistency] is another feature of trust (1 Corinthians 4:2; Zechariah 8:16). After their miraculous deliverance through the Red Sea, ‘the people of Israel . . . were filled with awe . . . They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:31). How about that as a statement of trust in God-appointed leadership!

  1. Understanding

Of the four components of love, this takes the longest to build up in any relationship. We know God by revelation; and we also know other humans by their self-disclosure.

To be understood is a basic human hunger, even greater than being liked by others, or agreed with. It surely is significant that Adam and Eve’s sexual fulfilment is expressed in the Hebrew text as: ‘Adam knew his wife’ (Genesis 4:1).

Components of understanding include empathy, openness, listening and, as we already noted, self-disclosure. When these features are active then we will be able to ‘have fellowship with each other’ (1 John 1:7), and live in peace with each other’ (Mark 9:50; compare Romans 14:19).

  1. Care

When there is ‘harmony among the members’ of a church community, ‘all the members care for each other’ (as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 12:25). This includes acceptance of one another (Romans 15:7), tender-heartedness towards each other (Ephesians 4:32), and sharing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Paul spells out sixteen essential components of Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We could catalogue these under four categories and use them as a personal spiritual health check at regular intervals (the figures in square brackets indicate the order in which Paul listed them):

(a) Love is: [1]. ‘patient’ (Hebrews 5:1-2); [2] ‘kind’ (Ephesians 4:31-32 = ‘love is gentle and consistently kind to all’ The Passion Translation); [14] ‘always hopeful’ (= ‘ never takes failure as defeat’, TPT).

(b) Love is not: [3] ‘jealous’ (‘It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else’, TPT); [4] ‘boastful’ (‘Love does not brag about one’s achievements’, TPT); [5] ‘proud’ (Psalm 139:23-24; Matthew 7:1-5); [6] ‘rude’; [8] ‘irritable’ (beware of anger due to unresolved issues in one’s upbringing).

(c) Love does not: [7] ‘demand its own way’ (Romans 15:1-2); [9] ‘keep records of being wronged’; [10] ‘rejoice about injustice’ (‘serves him right!’); [12] ‘give up’; [13] ‘lose faith’.

(d) Love does: [11] ‘rejoice . . . whenever the truth wins out; [15] ‘endure through every circumstance’ (Hebrews 12:3; for instance Ephesians 4:2, ‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love’ (Ephesians 4:2).

No wonder [16] ‘Love will last forever’!

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