“But the greatest of these is love.”
See 1 Corinthians 13:13
Grandma. This one word brings a feeling of peace to my soul. Just thinking about her in adoration, as a man in his late 30’s, I get a lump in my throat. I just know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
To be clear, I don’t want to put God in a box, because He can do whatever He wants. But I doubt I would have turned out like I am without Grandma raising me. Being brought up by the example of this angel-lady has to be why my fingers are typing this devotional, right now.
An understatement would be this: my childhood was rough. Mom and Dad couldn’t get along, things got nasty, and all five of us kids were thrown into a hurricane of heartache. But in the eye of that storm was Grandma.
“Come here, baby. Let Grandma help you,” was a familiar and comforting phrase I heard quite often as a child. This boisterous, amazing, fat little lady who could cook like no other, raised my brothers, sister, and me. Grandma knew we were in pain because of the divorce, constant moving and litigation, so she never added additional discomfort to us by being mean–ever. Even while correcting us she did so in such a loving way we couldn’t ignore her or keep on acting out.
The love she expressed at all times, even in conflict, baffles me. Although I’m coming up on 38 years old, I’ve never met a person like her. I thought one day I would, but I haven’t. Raising us in the 90’s, when she should have been enjoying retirement, still has me in awe this very moment. She’ll tell you though, “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
I can remember one time I got real bad sick, I’m talking bad. My agony was so great I couldn’t even move. Laid up on the bottom bunk in my bedroom, Grandma came in every hour on the hour to sit on the side of the bed and rub my head with a cold, wet rag. I was so sick I couldn’t always open my eyes, but I’d still feel her come in and hum sweet songs while wiping me down.
“There you go, baby. You should be good for a little while longer. Let Grandma know if I can do anything else for you, okay?”
She always called us baby, and at times we’d retort, “Grandma, why do you say that so much?”
“Well, because you’re Grandma’s babies.”
In my teenage years I’d say, “I’m 15 years old. I’m not your baby.”
“Oh hush your mouth, yes you are,” then she’d wink at me and smile.
She wasn’t the most talented person, she had no real hobbies, and Grandma wasn’t super-smart. But I’ve never encountered anyone who expressed the gift of love like her. So many people want to say this gift and that gift is how you know the Spirit of Jesus lives in you. But love is the litmus test, and Grandma was in the Hall of Fame.
God has poured His love into the heart of every single believer–evenly. Grandma and I have the same amount of our Creator’s love in us, and so do you, Christian. That love is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Himself. How can I make such a claim? All we need to do is add up a handful of Bible verses and you’ll see. First of all, God is love. Love is not just a characteristic of His but who He is. John writes those exact words:
“…because God is love.” (See 1 John 4:8)
Secondly, if God is love, we have love in us because we have the Spirit of Christ in us:
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
So if God is love and Christ’s Spirit–the Holy Spirit–is in us, then we all have a natural desire to love as new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s simply up to us to let Jesus live through us, to produce love, just the same as a vine lives through a branch, to produce fruit (see John 15:5, Galatians 5:22-23).
Had I not experienced Grandma expressing the love of God–Jesus–who knows how I would have turned out. Mark, Luke, John, and Faith, all of us kids might be on a completely different path had she not planted seeds of love in our minds through her own actions and attitudes. She showed us how to let Jesus live through us.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians explaining what the love of God looks like:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not selfish, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
For years I was under the impression that this is the type of love I have to strive for each day–but it’s not. Paul is actually explaining God’s love for us. Now, as we rest in His love we can exhale and then realize this same love has been programmed in to us as saints. The Ephesians are taught this truth:
“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” (Ephesians 6:24)
We have an incorruptible love inside of us. It is inextinguishable. It cannot change. I’m not talking about how we may feel at any given time, I’m talking about identity. Love, for a Christian, is organic. There’s never a need to force our natural behaviors or thoughts. Instead, we are called to simply be our true selves as reborn children of God (see 1 John 3:1, John 1:12). What’s already inside of us? Do that. Be that. Let it out.
Once I realized this “1 Corinthians 13 love” is our Creator’s love for us through Christ, and then that Christ lives in us–the wheels started to pick up speed in my head. My mind was being renewed (see Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:6, 2:13).
“So all I need to do is wake up each day and be myself?” I asked God.
“Yes. And I’m going to teach you more and more about who you really are.” His Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit, in a very motivating manner.
Grandma didn’t “try” to love others each day, she simply allowed Christ to express Himself through her. He had given her the gift of love, and she too, gave that gift away. When I began to understand the New Covenant–that is, what Christ does for us, to us, and through us–this became apparent. She was just being herself at all times. The loving actions and attitudes were byproducts, supernatural fruit. All of that 1 Corinthians 13 stuff? All of that Galatians 5:22 and 23 fruit? My brothers, sister, and I got to enjoy! As did everyone Grandma encountered!
So today, my friends, know this: How simple is this gospel that God would choose to use us as His vessels? Extremely simple. Our unique personalities, interests, and gifts? God’s desire is to show Himself to the world by way of them (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). We work together with Him, it’s a relationship. The greatest gift of all time, love, is meant to impact this planet and ultimately eternity. Love is in you, Christian. Love is your identity. So allow Christ to use your loving identity, your gift, to walk out your true nature. Always be yourself, and always use your gift.
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for placing me in the lineage of my grandmother. By doing so, you blessed me before I was even born. I cannot express my gratitude in typed words, but you already know how I feel. Thank you, so much, for Grandma. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I know that many of these dear readers never got to experience such a love from another person. For them, I’m asking you to reveal yourself in profound ways in their lives. You ARE love. The unconditional love Grandma showed me and others was YOUR SPIRIT through her–and I know that. Teach us more about the love you’ve poured out into every one of your children. Uncover the unloving parts of our thinking so we can let you live through us even more. Use us every moment to show off the greatest gift on planet earth, YOU. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!