For the last few weeks I have been approaching the definition of agape love in 1 Corinthians 13 phrase by phrase. The obvious title for the next phrase “is not arrogant” might have been: “Arrogance and Love on the Road Home.” Call me skeptical, but I thought no one would want to read such a blog post. Few of us think we are arrogant. If we suspect we are, we don’t want some blogger rubbing it in our face. If we think someone else is, we may be better off not dwelling on it (leads to judgment, after all.)
Jesus’ harshest words were unleashed upon the self-righteous, the “religious,” those arrogant in their moral superiority. Those who prayed, “thank you God that I am not like that sinner” versus “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner!” were not open to the gospel, because they were not aware of their need for it. On the other hand, he said of those repentant of heart, “Those forgiven much, love much.” There is, then, an inverse relationship between arrogance and love, and a direct correlation between poverty of spirit and the capacity for love.
Occasionally, it is my extraordinary pleasure as a counselor to work with individuals who recognize that they are poor in spirit. They are not coming to the counseling session for relief from a particular symptom or to deal with a particular relationship or even an event. They are seeking guidance and insight because they have come to see what Christ expects of them, and they recognize how far they fall short of those expectations.
They are not legalists. They are not concerning themselves with a set of external rules or behaviors. It is not generally abstinence from a vice that drives them to their knees. There are programs and self-help books in abundance for such issues. When they realize that, in the depths of their hearts, they love the likable and despise the rest, they fear that they are no different than the rest of the world. They wonder how knowing Christ has altered them. They may even question whether they really know Christ at all. When I think of such people, I am reminded of the rest of the beatitude~ “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It is a good thing to realize that, in and of ourselves, we are utterly lacking. That is the truth that brings us to our knees before Christ. It causes us to cry out to him, to crave his righteousness to manifest itself in our hearts first, then in our lives and relationships. It is crucial that, in the process, we accept the agape of Spirit and others. That is what grace is for.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 NIV
“Love is not…arrogant.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 NASB