Putting Away Childish Things Pt 4 — Love does not boast.

I have always wondered how to really interpret “love does not boast” correctly. Yes, boasters and braggers are tedious and annoying, but are they really unloving? Is that all that is being communicated here?

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I Cor 13:11  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.

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I have been thinking about this verse a lot over the last two weeks, and it finally came to me, the connection between it and the admonition against boasting a few verses earlier. And it came to me while watching a facebook thread directed against the mother of a special needs child with profound disabilities after she was honest about how she feels sometimes.

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“She’s selfish.”

“Not a real mom.”

“If I were that boy’s mom I would….”

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And there it was — the “If I… then I would” statement that most of us don’t even see as boasting. Neither did I, long ago, and I used to do it all the time until God taught me one night not to. Here’s what happened. We had just bought our new house from a family who had a lot of relatives in town and some of the relatives had keys. Mark got called in late to work one night (we lived a few minutes away from the plant) and when I heard the key in the garage door I went to open it for him. But it wasn’t him, it was a man who looked like a mountain, and there I was in my pajamas and despite all my years of boastfully talking about how if anyone broke into my house I would shoot them dead, I stood there paralyzed in front of him. I could not speak, I could not move. He could have killed me in a heartbeat, but fortunately he was frozen in fear as well. He didn’t know that his relatives were already gone to the new house. He was as mortified as I was terrified.

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Afterwards, I was laying in bed thinking about all my years of boasting about what I would do if I was in that situation,  and I realized very clearly that until we are in that exact same position, that we don’t have the slightest clue what the heck we would do. And furthermore, unless we have walked the exact same path as the person who finds themselves in whatever situation, we cannot say what we would or would not do “if we were them.” It comes down to exalting ourselves, and dishonoring others. Assuming the best of ourselves, and giving no credit to others. It’s childish and it is unloving. And frankly, it’s just easier than showing compassion and mercy.

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Here’s another one — my kids were 6 and I was driving them from New Mexico to California for a Disneyland trip.  We stopped at the Grand Canyon.  Now I am terrified of heights but I always assumed that I could overcome any fear to save my beloved sons.  They ran, RAN, to the edge of the canyon.  My legs were frozen in place, I could not force myself to go get them.  They were standing there, inches from death while I was unable to move towards them.  The looks of judgment from the other tourists were burning in to my flesh, but my legs would not move.  Fortunately a very nice couple went and retrieved them for me.  I learned that day that primal fear changes everything!  It even overcomes maternal instincts.  But then another time, I ran into a bee swarm to save Andrew.  We just never know.

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We watch movies and we call someone an idiot for being frozen in place, or making the wrong snap judgment, or for panicking. We judge politicians and say what we would have done, all in hindsight of course, thinking we have all the information as we sit at home unwilling to even take on that kind of responsibility. We say what we would or wouldn’t do, but it all amounts to wishful thinking. What would I have done if I were on the football field? They key in all of this is the pronoun “I.” I, I, I, I … “please listen to me draw attention to my virtues, my excellent discernment, my wisdom and intelligence and infallibility.”

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Boasting — it isn’t just about telling people how great we are and about what we have done, it’s about telling people how great we would be in a challenging situation.  It’s about assuming the best about ourselves when we are absolutely untried.  It’s about pinning on war medals when we haven’t even been in battle yet.  It’s about making everyone who fails — well, it’s about putting them beneath our feet.  It’s about disassociating ourselves from the failures and vulnerabilities of others and attaching to ourselves success and infallibility.

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Can I be honest here?

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If I came out of Egypt and was out in the desert with no food and water, I would complain too. If I was Peter, I probably would have looked at the wind and waves too (or stayed with the others in the boat), and I would have ran from the Temple guards. And I might have denied my Master there in the courtyard.  And I would have probably joined Thomas in doubting. And I would have been bickering with the other disciples about who would be first in the Kingdom.  I would have done a lot of things that I would not be proud of afterwards.

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peter

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I might say, “I hope I would have done such and such…” but I don’t know for certain. And that admission helps me be compassionate. It’s a pride killer, a humbling thing to just admit that I don’t know what the heck I would do in a million different situations I have never been in. I am often weak, I am not always wise, I am not always kind or merciful, and sometimes I lack all discretion.

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So what would I do if I were you, in your situation? I don’t know. I hope I would do right, but considering the fact that I don’t even always do right in my own life – how dare I even speculate?

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1 Comment


  1. Been there done that. What an excellent examination of self. I find myself, “Guilty as charged.”

    Reply

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