Monday, August 8, 2011

Love, Correction, and Discipline: My Interview wtih Suzanna Kamphuis

 My wonderful friend Suzanna was another person that I sent my interview questions to.  She was very gracious to reply, despite being at the very end of her pregnancy!  Suzanna has the wonderful ability to draw people out in conversation and make them not only feel welcome, but also to think.  And I love her dearly!

1.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a stay-at-home, sometime-homeschooling, sometime-not mom with hands in many pies, seldom
(much to my husband’s chagrin) a literal pie.

2. How would you define love?

I’ve been thinking a lot about love these days, reading I Corinthians 13 over silently to myself and aloud to my children.  I enjoy reading the King James Version, and in that version the term “charity” is used instead of “love.”   The Jacobeans, the society that produced the King James Version, were incredibly public minded, interested primarily in Biblical virtues as they affected society.  Thus, they used a term which brought to mind the social form of the Greek original, “agape.”  Conversely, today, many people tend to think of love as a private, heart-chosen, out-of-our-control emotion.  As Woody Allen infamously expressed, “The heart wants what it wants.” 

I grew up in a conservative church that sided with the Jacobeans in this debate.  Love was not about how you felt, but rather about what you did—the public effect was primary.  If and when you didn’t feel it—you were advised to “fake it ‘til you make it,” because “feelings follow actions.”  But in real life, sometimes feelings don’t follow actions.  Sometimes my heart strays while my hand holds to the plow.  Does God care whether I feel love or whether I just find a way to express something loving in spite of my feelings? 

Just to prove to you what an idea nerd I am, for my wedding,  I chose the song “Something That We Do,” by Clint Black to express this idea.  I know; so romantic!  The lyrics have a lot to say about what love isn’t, “Love’s not just something that we’re in…Love isn’t something that you find.”  But what if love is something that found you.  The greatest love I have ever know has quietly but consistently searched me out not for public effect but to minister to my private need.  In my depravity, when the hopelessness of my case is right before me, the miracle of Christ love is poured out on my parched earth. 

I John 4  tells me that it is not the Christian’s job to manufacture love, not even for the Saviour himself, “We love him because He first loved us.”  Just as He is the author of our Faith, He is the author of our love.  And yet He does have some requirements.  He literally commands us to share.  We are not to be cisterns—taking and storing; we are to be aqueducts—passing the love along.  I try to think of the words of Christ as they would have sounded to Old Testament ears.  “If ye love me keep my commandments.”  Think of how that must have sounded to people under the law—how freeing!  “I don’t have to earn God’s favour, God’s favour and the love that it has inspired in my heart is there to propel me forward.”  And where is forward?  Several verses later Christ tells us, “And this is my commandment that ye love one another.”  This is truly a New Covenant.  Receive the love of Christ, feel it, and give it to someone else. 

3.  Biblically, we are called to correct, instruct, and encourage one another to righteousness.  In what circumstances should we do this?  How do we balance this with our call to love?

I Corinthians 13 speaks explicitly about the superiority of love.  The gifts God has given us “to correct, instruct, or encourage one another to righteousness” in this life lack clarity.  “We know in part…We prophecy in part.”  In contrast, charity (or love) “never faileth.”  It is the one tool in our arsenal as Christians that literally is guaranteed to work every single time. 

I’m sad to say that I have been on both the giving and receiving end of correction, instruction, and encouragement in righteousness that was not grounded in love.  It’s not a pleasant experience to get beaten up by another person’s “gift.”  In fact the word “gift” seems a bit of a misnomer when your eyes are getting poked, your hair is getting pulled, your ears are being boxed by your beloved brother or sister in Christ, who then proceeds to pray that you will receive their words in a spirit of love.  A gift to who?  Not to me.  Even when the words are true, it is hard to learn when you feel attacked.  As Paul says in I Corinthians 12, “There is a more excellent way.”

Following I Corinthians 13 is…drum roll please…I Corinthians 14.  In I Corinthians 14 we are instructed to desire spirituals gifts, such as prophecy…as they flow from love…and as we can understand their limited usefulness because of our limited selves.  At this time, we are working in pretty murky water; we do not yet see “face to face.”  Ah, the blessed humility of knowing that my “insights” are often misguided, my feelings frequently interfere with my spiritual sight.  And yet, just as God does not despise my frailty, He does not despise my pursuit of spiritual gifts.  I am not called to be a limp fish or a door mat, but to be fully me, led by His Spirit in a unique way to serve His kingdom.  BUT…my gifts need a regular bath, or they will start to stink maybe not to my nose but to the noses of those around me.  Humility and love scour my gifts and make them acceptable to company. 

4. The big phrase you hear today is "don't judge me!"  The Bible instructs us to judge not, lest we be judged.  What does this passage mean to you?  Is there ever a circumstance where we are called to judge?

 I once heard a Biblical scholar explain that this phrase from the Gospels simply means that one shouldn’t get into the business of judging unless you yourself are prepared to be judged.  Not being a Biblical scholar myself, I jumped on the explanation in my usual enthusiastic way. 

I think there certainly is a time and a place within the parameters set by I Corinthians 13 to speak an honest question into someone’s life.  “Love seeketh not her own.”  The love of Christ does not flatter or seek ego fulfilment in the eyes of the beloved.  But for me, judgment involves a sentence, a statement of determination.  I find that to be antithetical to the definition of love in I Corinthians 13.  “

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