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New Release: Loving the Way Jesus Loves

March 6, 2012

Loving the Way Jesus Loves

Phil Ryken, Crossway 2012

Name that tune: “Love is patient, love is kind…”

Are you singing along yet? Did you shout out “1 Corinthians 13:4!” in true Sword Drill fashion? If you did, then you recognize the challenge an author faces in saying something “new” about Paul’s famous passage on love in his letter to the Corinthians. When I heard that local worthy Phillip Ryken was venturing into the fray of 1 Cor 13 publications, it was hard to imagine that whatever he would have to say wouldn’t be a repeat of all the lovely (if redundant) wedding sermons I’ve listened to in the past.

When our staff sat down to explore Ryken’s latest, however, we were intrigued by his approach. Instead of simply exegeting 1 Corinthians (there’s that of course- a careful and faithful exercise) or simply encouraging the reader to replace “love” in the passage with her own name (ie, “Valerie is patient. Valerie is kind.” oh… Lord have mercy!),  Ryken takes the focus of 1 Corinthians off the reader and places it squarely on Jesus of Nazareth.

In the spirit of 1 John 4:8*, we approach the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 with Jesus as our lens. Each portion of the passage is attached to a narrative from the life of Jesus. In the chapter Love is Not Irritable, we pair “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:5) with Mark’s account of Jesus feeding the 5000+ with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6). Ryken points out the exhaustion the disciples felt after a fruitful season of ministry. On this particular day, they hadn’t had enough to eat. Jesus himself is likely emotionally drained after getting news of his friend and cousin John the Baptist’s execution. He’s probably pondering his own future destiny at Golgotha. He encourages the group to row out to a lonely place for some refreshment.

At this time in his ministry Jesus was exceptionally popular with the people, and once they get word of his itinerary, the crowds run ahead of the group and beat them to the other side of the shore. While the disciples might be irritated and exasperated with the throng (remember their lack of patience when the children are swarming around Jesus waiting to be blessed?), Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6: 34). He begins an all-day teaching session on the kingdom of God. As the day wears on, so does the patience of the twelve, and interrupting him, they command Jesus to send the people away so they can buy food for themselves (do you ever get bossy when you’re irritated?).

Jesus turns the command around and tells the disciples to do the feeding. In a sarcastic back-and-forth, the disciples point out their lack of resources to meet such a need (do you ever have a hard time being obedient when your patience is thin?). Jesus then performs the miracle I’ve loved since I was six: he takes five loaves and two fish from a child, says a blessing, breaks it, and there is food enough for everyone (with twelve baskets left over). And yes, he enlists the disciples to help pass out the feast and gather up the leftovers.

There’s a lot going on in the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus is performing a miracle like that of manna and the wilderness. There are allusions to the Messianic Banquet discussed in Isaiah 25, and echos of Psalm 23. But I love how Ryken points out Jesus’ character in responding to inconveniences in this passage. His patience, kindness, and the obvious lack of irritability toward the crowds is something we almost miss as we watch the miracle unfold. Indeed, Jesus is love, and his is a name we can substitute for “love” in the 1 Cor 13 passage without seeing it fall short.

Thank you Lord, for your patience toward us. Transform us into the image of your Son, and help us to exchange irritability for compassion, so that others may see your likeness in us. Amen.

*…”God is love”

Mention this blog post at Johnsen & Taylor and receive 25% off Loving the Way Jesus Loves(Promotion good until 3/31/12)

– Valerie

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