Playing Whist for an hour a day for five years while riding the school bus taught me (and won me) a trick or two. One lesson was about the importance of trumps. In Whist, every player wants cards of the trump suit in their hand. Trumps, as the name implies, triumph over other cards and win the tricks that win the game.
Is there a trump suit in the Christian life? Judging by the frequency with which conversations and teachings conclude with it, surely love trumps everything. Do I hear you shouting, “Of course”?
Now, I’m not saying that love is unimportant. But is it the trump suit of the Christian life? Or are we meekly surrendering to comments like, “God is love,” and, “1 Corinthians 13 is all about love,” as though they are winning cards to slap on the table?
Let’s examine the other contenders:
Spades seems an attractive suit. We all agree that it’s essential to dig deep to expose and solve problems, and to lay foundations of solid biblical teaching. Scoop away the debris of wrong thinking that blocks the path to the overcoming life. Shovel all the practical help we can on the poor and needy of the world. Surely Spades carries the greatest weight for a healthy and victorious Christian life.
But aren’t Clubs more powerful? Wield all the prayer needed to batter the enemy and smash down his strongholds. Just be careful not to bruise your brother and sister too badly.
If Spades and Clubs seem rather forceful candidates for trumps, what about Diamonds? That suit reminds me of the gifts of exhortation and encouragement—with which we knock off people’s rough edges and polish their precious facets until they slide right into their God-given destiny. Diamonds are tough and can be razor sharp. Diamonds sparkle bright rays from the Spirit of truth straight into the heart, bringing freedom and healing. Perhaps Diamonds are the Christian trump suit.
What about love though? In our modern, western society it’s easy to associate love with being tolerant and soothing, rather than confrontational. That supposed distinction has caused such contention in the recent debates about marriage laws and ordination of homosexuals. But Jesus was more than a nice guy. Listen to Jesus’ words about love. After all, He modeled it to us; He defined love by His life:
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14)
Until we examine Jesus’ life we don’t really understand the quality and place of godly love in the Christian life. For sure His loving heart bled to death for everyone, but His sacrifice functioned like a spiritual club used to vanquish sin, death, and Satan forever. That occasion when He swung at the traders in the temple was a violent protest at their abuse of God’s special venue for multi-ethnic prayer. Jesus was the master of incisive words of truth that sliced through religious masks—truth that set captives free, truth that dug down to lay the foundations of the Christian life. A sharp response scattered the pharisaical accusers of the woman caught in adultery, because truth exposed their sin too. At the same time, His love freed the woman from condemnation and the bondage of her sin.
In Whist, the trump suit changes. It’s the same in the Christian life. Jesus understood that love is the appropriate and timely application of all God’s gifts. Love seeks God’s highest for a person. Love invests whatever resources God endows us with to pursue the highest. Sometimes truth is needed; sometimes people need cleansing, foundation repair, or piles of generosity. The war club of intercession comes in handy at times too. So let’s learn to love like Jesus. Jesus played all the right cards at the right time.
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