This past Sunday was one of those times when I had far more to say than time to say it. The topic of Loving Like Grown Ups is so relevant to myself and to so many of us who struggle to display the kind of love Jesus calls us to in our relationships with others. Someone asked if I could break that sermon down and turn it into a 6- or 8-week series, and while I’ll consider the challenge, I want to comment on piece of the message that I cut out because of time.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Paul describes some of the characteristics of agape love, the mind-boggling, jaw dropping love that God pours out to us and is the standard of how we should treat others. After describing what love looks like, Paul later writes:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
What he’s saying is that the sign we have finally grown up is that we stop acting like kids. Children are beautiful and Jesus said we should become like the little children. What he means is that that there is something admirable about how a child acts around spiritual authority. They are honest and humble, traits often absent in adults. Being child-like is a virtue, but being childish is not. Childishness is equivalent to immaturity and must be outgrown if want to have lasting and loving relationships.
When people behave childishly, they’re prone to respond emotionally. They speak their mind quickly and often without a filter. They pout when they don’t get what they want and throw a fit get it. Paul says that the key to maturing is that we give up those childish ways. To give up means to surrender. It means we no longer act like we have a right to those thing. We offer it up like a sacrifice.
The process of growing up requires giving up. Mature love is sacrificial by nature. It’s always giving up something for the sake of the relationship. Our Heavenly Father modeled it for us by giving his one and only Son to die for our sins.
In order to grow up in love, I have to surrender things like expectations, feelings of retaliation, desires to have what others have and to boast of what I do have. I have to stop insisting that things be done my way, and the anger that comes when they’re not. I have to surrender the scorecard of the wrongs others have committed against me. I do this because that’s what God has done for me.
We act like children when we allow our emotions to drive our responses. It’s like putting a first grader in the driver’s seat of your life. You just know an accident is bound to happen and someone’s going to get hurt! Here’s a better option: keep childish emotions in the backseat and invite Jesus to sit behind the wheel. We will find that loving others impossible on our own, but we can let Jesus love others through his presence and power in us! It’s not in us to love, but Jesus is in us to love.
When we display a grown-up kind of love, it’s a sign that we belong to Jesus (John 13:34-35). I wonder what our friendships and family relationships be like if we gave up childish ways and let Jesus love through us? I dare you to find out!