I Corinthians chapter thirteen is a glorious hymn of praise in honor of Christian love. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul, from a heart burning with the love of Christ, eloquently expressed the characteristics of this special kind of love. He tells us that it is absolutely necessary—it is eternal, and it is greater than anything else.
I just finished reading this chapter both in the New King James and in The Message. I am captured by the poetry of Brother Paul, but at the same time, I am appreciative of the plain forthrightness of The Message.
In verse 1, the New King James says, “Love suffers long and is kind…”
The Message puts it this way. “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self…”
I have experienced that kind of love, first from my mother, then from God. God has always loved me, of course, even before I was formed in my mother’s womb. But, I was aware of Mama’s love first of all.
Mama was the strongest woman I have ever known. I believe her strength came from her suffering, for regardless of pain and sorrow she flexed her spiritual muscles, and determined never to give up.
At the age of twenty—one, Mama lost her firstborn. Baby Levi, just shy of his third birthday, succumbed to infantile paralysis, and two year later she laid her young husband of six years to rest. She went to work, chopping cotton, sewing, cleaning, and doing laundry—anything to take care of her two remaining babies.
Mama always cared more for others, especially her family, than for herself. I know there were times she did without, in order that we have the necessities.
When I graduated from high school, I wanted so much to go away to Bible College, but there was no money, so I went to work. Hour after hour, day after day, I sewed pockets on pajamas for Sears. BORING! I was guaranteed $ .75 per hour, but I was fast—I was good. I could do twice my quota, so I made $60.00 a week.
From that $60.00, I gave my parents $15.00 to help with expenses and I paid my tithes. I saved $1,000.00 that year, and in September, I boarded a Grey Hound bus and zoomed off to Waxahachie, Texas. After two years, my $1,000.00 was more than used up, and end of term, I came home owing a school bill.
I tried all summer to get a job, but nothing was available, and I couldn’t go back until my debt was paid. However, I kept preparing for my return hoping that a miracle would happen.
One morning, My Mom disappeared and was gone for a couple of hours. No one knew that she had walked to the bank.
She went to the bank to ask for a loan. She had no collateral except our old house, and I know she wouldn’t risk our home. On her good name alone, think of that, she borrowed enough money to pay my debt and to get me started on a new term.
She put her arms around me and, with tears in her eyes, said, “Pack your bags, you’re going back to school.”
I have no idea how my mother ever paid back that loan. I know that it took a sizable chunk out of my parent’s limited income. Again she had proven her love caring more for others than for self.
My older brother started preaching as a nineteen-year-old evangelist, but he had no money and no way to get to his first revival. Mama sent him $50.00 from the cotton she picked or the houses she cleaned. In 1949, $50.00 was a fortune.
My brother preached and is still preaching, for sixty-eight years, and I served in active ministry for nearly fifty years largely due to My Mother’s godly love. No doubt, my Mom will share in any reward we receive.
That’s the kind of love the Apostle Paul was talking about.
Now I am thinking of another debt I owed. The song says,
“He paid a debt He did not owe.
I owed a debt I could not pay.
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song: “Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
When I started teaching school, I determined to send my Mama $50.00 a month for the sacrifice she had made. I did that long after the debt had been paid. In a sense, I paid her back, but she didn’t ask for it. She didn’t expect it. She did it because she loved me.
There is no way I can pay Jesus back for loving me more than He loved His very life, but I can follow His example. I can quit pampering myself and allow His love to flow through me to a needy neighbor, a family member, a suffering world.
The sun will come out tomorrow