Victor Chininin Buele
“All you need is love!” As I was praying this morning, an upcoming wedding came to mind, and I was remembering how an exercise often done at weddings is to take the word “love” in a critical New Testament passage and replace it. Let me explain what I mean:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV)
Then, the well-intentioned preacher would ask you to do this:
Victor is patient and kind; Victor does not envy or boast; Victor is not arrogant or rude. Victor does not insist on his own way; Victor is not irritable or resentful; Victor does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Victor bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)
And then you get to stand or sit there certainly sorry you did this because you know it’s not true. You just lost it at the cake lady or the photographer or the guy with the gigantic iPad taking a picture as your wife walked down the aisle and messed up your beautiful picture that was going to make or break the marriage… But you smile because the show must go on!
So, then the well-intentioned preacher tells you to do this:
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)
And because Jesus is the perfect one who actually is all these things you can have hope that He will hold you fast, that He will carry you, that He will do the work necessary to present you blameless at the last day. There is nobody more invested in you being as He is than Jesus is. He loved you to the uttermost. He died for you to cover for every evil thing you have ever and will ever do, think, or half-ass your way through. He died in love, so that you can love. Truly love.
As I was listening to President Trump last night go on his usual rant, this time up in Montana, one particular section of this passage came to mind: “Donald J. is not irritable or resentful.” He went on and on, fed by his grudge with Senator Tester, on why Admiral Jackson wasn’t ultimately appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And as I walked through the passage again, I want to make one very critical point.
Yes, obviously, President Trump can arise some very primary emotions in you. He is very far from being patient. I don’t need to produce examples for that. He is definitely not kind given that the insults list continues to grow (admit it, they are third-grade-playground sticky… they stick). Knowing how bad I am with envy, I am sure he can’t be worse than me at that, but envy is probably there, probably was there in that moment when President Obama made fun of him at the White House Correspondents Dinner that one time and made him long to take over the Oval Office. Who knows! President Trump loves to boast. Always has. I hope it’s not an always will. The gospel is that powerful. I hope he can hear the gospel one day. Contrary to what all the talking heads may say, the greatest need President Trump has is to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and be made new by the Holy Spirit. Seeing the other day the freed brother pastor pray for the Spirit of God to guide President Trump, I couldn’t agree more with such a request. The Holy Spirit must come and regenerate and transform and give life to our nation’s president. We should always pray for nothing short of that. Transformation is possible, most definitely so. I digress. Let’s continue: President Trump loves to boast. He is arrogant and rude. He definitely insists in his own way, sentencing all of those of us common folks paying large hospital bills a few pennies at a time to higher insurance premiums coming up and higher deductibles to meet, among other things. He certainly appears to rejoice at wrongdoing if 1% of what we see in the media is true. And let’s not kid ourselves, there is an allergy to truth. The ironic thing is, he is doing everything he promised he would do, whether you like it of not. In the middle of all the alleged and seemingly blatant falsehood, he is actually keeping his promises.
So, there. I agree with you, my friend. He is pretty bad. Terrible even. Very far from what Jesus is.
But you know what? I am still worse. I actually know my sin and know myself to be worse than what I think he is. The most terrifying part of the exercise remains me:
I am hardly a patient person at all. I assume the worst out of people more often than I am called by Jesus to assume the best in them, so I’m not always the kindest person. I am envious–envious of the rich, envious of the poor, envious of those who travel, envious of those who don’t, envious of those with large savings, and envious of those with mountains of debt, envious of those fake lives on Facebook, envious of the real lives behind the fake lives on Facebook. I am boastful–worse than Trump. He at least has a fairly contained list of accomplishments to rant about night after night. I manufacture new reasons to boast all the time. And it’s very hard to admit that very Pauline understanding of life that it is not I but the grace of God in me that accomplished them. I am arrogant. Yesterday I was seemingly just giving an intellectual clause as part of a larger argument, but in the process I destroyed my listener’s opinion and hurt her deeply. I am rude–just cut me off in the highway when I’m having a “bad day” and see. I insist in my own way all the time. And many times I will ridicule your way in some seemingly polite way. I am irritable, very easily so. I am resentful. I keep a record of wrongs. I know I’m not supposed to, but I am often horrified at how often I can tell date and time of when something was done “to me”–I crave for the vindication that can come to me for these wrongs perpetrated. I rejoice at my own wrongdoing all the time.
But here is the thing: I am not what I once was, but I am not yet all that I will one day be by the grace and work of the Spirit of God in my life.
I am more patient and more kind every day, being conformed into the image of Christ. That’s the part you often get to see and admire and respect. I am growing in killing envy and boasting. You often hear me boast in the Lord, and that’s because of His great grace to change my evil heart day by day. I am not as arrogant as I once was, and you often see that through my sharing of things others wouldn’t share with you. Again, Jesus changing me day by day. I am not as rude as He changes me to love you all more and more. I am not always insisting in my own way, and you perhaps compliment me on my ability to listen and respond with empathy. That’s all Jesus. I am not as irritable as I once was. The same thing! I am not as resentful. I have learned more and more ways the Spirit of God empowers me to kill bitterness when it’s still seeds being poured into the ground. I do not rejoice at obvious wrongdoing, and you often hear me giving commentary at how Jesus can change wrongdoing. Again, not I but the grace of God at work within me! You see me rejoicing in the truth, preaching the truth, pleading with you to see the truth. Again, not me…
Here is the point I promised: Do you yet see how all that irritates the life out of you in Donald J. is because you are the chief of sinners? President Trump is just the caricature that God has brought into your life of all your pet sins, those you guard closely, those you know are wrong but refuse to admit them, those you turn into culturally-accepted virtues worthy of cultural praise.
And you keep looking for a deliverer. And while the Democrats will keep failing to give you one and the Republicans, too, all along you long for the fulfillment of this very text.
It is true–you want love. You do.
Turn to Him.
Be the beloved of the Lord.