My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Proverbs 4:20 (NIV)
This coming Sunday I’m scheduled to deliver the message among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. The assigned topic is “self-control” which is the final “fruit of the Spirit” Paul lists in his letter to the believers in Galatia:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
One of the key things on which I’ve been meditating of late is the fact that in the original language and among the earliest manuscripts of Paul’s letter there is a stop after the word “love.” The implication is that love is the fruit and all that is listed after are, in fact, descriptors of love. No surprise. In fact, in Paul’s famous description of love in his letter to the believers in Corinth, he describes love with many of the same adjectives.
As I contemplate self-control, the most obvious definitions that spring to mind are abstaining from immoral acts and/or avoiding the indulgence of unhealthy appetites. But then I began to think about self-control specifically it in terms of loving others well, and it changed my thinking.
In today’s chapter, King Solomon continues to implore his children to seek wisdom. At the end of the chapter he uses the parts of the body to describe how one seeks after wisdom:
- Ears the pay attention to what is said
- Eyes that are focused and searching after wisdom
- A heart that is guarded from wandering into foolish places
- A mouth that speaks good things, not bad
- Feet that choose wise paths
As I mulled this over, I began to realize that these metaphors could also be just as easily applied to how I apply self-control in the loving of others (and here I examine, specifically, the love I show to Wendy, our children, my family, my friends, as well as strangers and enemies):
- Ears that listen to another’s thoughts, feelings, and needs
- Eyes that are focused and seeking out what another needs
- A heart that is guarded from things that would hurt another
- A mouth that knows when to speak, when to be silent, and speaks words that build up, encourage, and heal another
- Feet that keep oneself alongside another
In the quiet this morning I find myself contemplating the connection between the daily choices I make in the use of my body (my ears, my eyes, my mouth, my heart, my brain, my hands, my feet) and both wisdom and love.
I am reminded this morning of one of the verses that I, as a young man, memorized and chose as words I wanted my entire life journey to embody:
Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.1 John 3:18 (TLB)
featured image from KandM Classroom