A few years ago, I was driving from Virginia Beach, VA to New York City, and found the I-95 highway quite costly on account of the tolls. On returning to Virginia Beach, I decided to go the longer route which took me through farm lands, rural towns but a more scenic, less challenging, quieter, no-tolls route through the states of NJ, PA, MD and DE. I enjoyed the scene until I got to a bridge that connected MD to VA. It was over the Chesapeake Bay, and it was unbelievably quite scary to me. Mind-blowing scary. Literally!
I love driving long distances and have driven through all of the United States save 7 but I do not like driving over large bodies of water, (the USA has a few), and driving on I-20 through MS into LA will test one’s resolve (the Miss. River and the Gulf meet), but nothing prepared me for that huge expanse of water with a flimsy-looking bridge meandering over it for miles. To make it worse, the bridge was under repairs with ropes or whatever contraptions they were, cordoning off the lane. I wondered whether a vehicle careening into the depths below would be stopped by these barriers. It seriously challenged my otherwise intact mental health. Suffice it to say the experience was not at all pleasant.
Once I got off that bridge, (oh what a relief it was!) I pulled over to the shoulder of the road and reflected on how much better it would have been, how much more peaceful, more freeing, enjoyable and yes more “secure” the journey would have felt had I chosen to stay on the highway even though it costs more in money and could feel more stressful with selfish motorists, high traffic, speed checkers and all that come with being on the interstates. The highway, I discovered, was the more excellent way for me.
In the spiritual journey, we are constantly challenged as we journey to our Heavenly home. We are on this journey along with fellow brothers and sisters – Church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul draws the analogy between Church - the body Christ and our physical bodies. He contends that the relationship ought to work among church members just like the physical parts of the body support each other. But then he takes things up notches higher. Just as you pause to reflect on what this looks like and how it can be done, he offers (vs 31), I will show you still a more excellent way which is where verse 13 begins. And it is LOVE. LOVE is the more excellent way. That highway that makes relationships work and activates church to be the fruit-bearing object of God’s supreme regard.
The absence of LOVE in relationships is like choosing an alternate route that is “easier” because it is less taxing on the heart, less costly on the pocket. LOVing is hard and constant work. It is so much easier to avoid and ignore than it is to engage in the arduous task of LOVing others. Especially when relating makes LOVing difficult. The less costly route however breeds mindlessness, wounds, strife, envy, insecurity, hatred, bickering, fear, coldness, dread, withdrawal, anger, resentment and the list goes on. It can affect mental health, wellbeing and all of these wonderful things that need to occur if the body of Christ will work and bear fruit.
This LOVE does not occur naturally which is why we find it so costly. It requires first and foremost, constant reliance on the Holy Spirit (I refer to this as the Jesus effect), mindfulness, a degree of alertness just as you need on the highway that you may not need on the back roads, sacrifice, self-denial, It checks road rage and allows for a constant personal renegotiating just as is necessary on the highway.
We experience irritants far less on the back roads, the cheaper ways. So we can be more apt to choose the back roads of avoiding people or disengaging because we can “drive” in comfort. Maybe a level of comfort that can cause us to fall asleep at the wheel because we are not challenged to be part of the whole - to LOVE like Jesus. We prefer the “solo” journey. Less work; less drama, we say.
Paul shows us the more excellent way of LOVing because on that route, you’re on the highway. It may feel more costly, you’re constantly challenged but you’re also mindful of others. It is where LOVE can grow. The more excellent way of LOVing is where we’re driven to LOVE the unloving, give when we should be receiving, be at peace even when things are unfair, accommodate even when it is undeserved. This is where LOVing shows itself to be the more excellent way because there it covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). It is constant not sporadic, it is patient not hasty, it bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things. It keeps the mind at peace. So today, there’s your choice of two paths LOVE or Comfort.
May you choose the more excellent way of LOVE! Welcome! Enjoy the drive. - Pastor Kerth Payne