3rd January 2024
'Francis Chan says'
"Think: The Life of the Mind
and the Love of God"
First Corinthians 13:2 makes me think about one of my heroes, Joni Eareckson Tada.
She has been a quadriplegic for over forty years now.
She started an amazing ministry from wheelchairs, all around the world.
The last time I was speaking with her, it became clear to me that she was hurting.
There's so much pain. I didn't realise that, as a quadriplegic, she could feel so much pain.
As we were talking, she grimaced and called to her assistant, and she said to me,
"I'm sorry, Francis. I have to go. I'm just in so much pain right now."
Then recently she found out that she has cancer.
So many of us have been hurting for her.
She started her chemo treatments, and they were wiping her out.
Then we found out she had pneumonia.
It made me think, "Wow, here's the sweetest woman on the earth with forty years as a quadriplegic in this insurmountable pain.
And then she has cancer, and then she's in chemo, and then she's struck with pneumonia.
And while she has pneumonia she types me a letter encouraging me to stay strong!
"Francis, I love you as a brother. You stay strong in the faith. I believe in what you're doing."
How can she be thinking about anyone else?
When I have the flu, I'm only thinking of me.
Love produces this kind of constant thinking about others.
Which is essentially what humility is.
Humility is not self-degradation. Putting yourself down is all about self.
Humility is about thinking of others - considering others more important than yourself.
Like Joni. In the midst of her pain and sickness, she thought, I should encourage Francis.
I wonder how he's doing.
When I read her note, I cried, "O God, make me like this!"
I want to be thinking constantly, How can I build people up?
I want to think how I can encourage others to keep fighting for the King and his kingdom.
How I can keep others focused on eternity?
When my brother and sister are discouraged, how can I build them up?
That's what love does. It builds people up.
"Knowledge is essential but not sufficient. You can be brilliant and worthless."
In fact, Paul explains to the Corinthians who were using their gifts - gifts of knowledge, gifts of tongues, and more - to puff themselves up, that in doing so, they were thinking only about themselves and building themselves up.
He explains to them, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
Why did God gift you the way that he did?
It's not for you alone. It's for all of us.
In love and humility, we should be thinking constantly,
How can I build up the people around me?
Paul writes, "'Knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up", and immediately after he adds, "If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know" (verse 2).
These Christians, who were seemingly so knowledgeable, didn't really know as they should have known.
In God's eyes, they were technically right on this issue, but they were only imagining themselves to be such knowledgeable, brilliant people.
In God's eyes, it was not real knowledge.
They were delusional. Because if they really knew, they would know that knowledge is meant to be used in the service of love.
That's true knowledge in God's eyes.
Such a person really gets it, is one who really knows.
It is such a danger to puff yourself up and imagine that you're a brilliant person.
It's like the school bully who imagines himself as the hero because he is the strongest.
He can beat anyone up.
But everyone else knows that he's not a hero but a jerk.
If he were a real hero, he would defend the weak.
He would be lifting them up, using his strength to care for them and protect them, not to bully them.
In the same way, with biblical and theological "knowledge" come the intellectual bullies who seem to know so much and imagine themselves to be so knowledgeable.
But Paul is saying that they may be only imagining that they are knowledgeable, because if they really knew, they would use their knowledge not to weaken others but to strengthen them.
Not to tear people down but to build them up. That's what love does.
Un-edited version, (MUCH MORE) available on request
is an American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher.
He is the former teaching pastor of the nondenominational Cornerstone Community Church,
an Evangelical church in Simi Valley, California founded by Chan in 1994.
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