Read: I Corinthians 13:1-13

Reflect: For the regular readers of ReCharge, it is no secret that I am a substitute school teacher. But you may not know why I do it. If your first thought was “he does it for the money”, and that would be an excellent guess. Yes, I do need to work at least parttime and if you don’t believe me, just ask my editor. How else are we going to pay for the trips to Cancun, Lake Tahoe, and the Swiss Alps! (By the way, the Alps are very lovely this time of year) However, there is another reason I sub, and this may be the most rewarding, I do it because I love kids and more importantly, they love me. I can’t tell you how many times I have kids tell me “Mr. Stoner, you’re my favorite sub!” Now granted, they may have said that to the last 5 subs that were in that class, but I accept all compliments, no matter what prompted it. And so, because of these kind words: I feel welcomed; I feel appreciated; I feel loved.

And so, a few weeks ago I was surprised and disappointed when the reaction was anything but sunshine and butterflies. I was assigned a classroom that I had never taught in before (always a danger) but I welcomed the challenge. It was elementary art; always a great place because you get to meet a multitude of students. It looked to be a good day. My first period was 6th grade, the next period was 5th grade, and they continued that way until I got to the last period which was Kindergarten. I invited the kiddos into the room, and they all found their seats. After appraising the situation, I noticed at one table a child was standing. I made my way back and found a child on his feet, facing the back of the room. His arms were crossed. He looked like a statue of a cigar store wooden Indians with a stoic look to match.

The most upsetting comment came after I asked him what was wrong. He told me “I hate you!” What! He hates me? Doesn’t he realize who he is talking to? I’m the sub whom everybody loves, the same one who has been rated by small children: “Best Sub Ever”. Doesn’t he realize he should say ‘I love you” not “I hate you”? Apparently, he didn’t get the memo! And so, after telling him I was a good friend of his teacher, he reluctantly said, “Okay, I’ll give you a chance”. With those words of “hope”, I proceeded to find out what the other 20 kindergarteners had in store for me!  

My experience with that kindergarten student demonstrated that love can be a fleeting thing. Human love can be fickle. Never should I depend on it to bring me joy. But the love mentioned in I Corinthians 13 is different; it’s a love that lasts for a lifetime because of Who it originates with. As important as all the spiritual gifts are (mentioned in I Corinthians 12), they are useless without the love of Christ as their foundation. The love that is to be combined with God’s gifts is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. (I Corinthians 13:4) The supreme illustration of this love is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son”. He demonstrated his love on the cross, through His resurrection, and through His countless acts of grace in everyday lives. His love is so remarkable we can’t begin to fully appreciate it, let alone understand it. That is why Paul writes, “We are like children, for now we are limited in what we can understand, but a day is coming when we shall see face to face.”

Apply: Has your love ever been in the kindergarten class, where it is fickle and based on changing emotions? We all need to grow up and mature in our faith, and to realize it is only the love of Jesus Christ that can strengthen our families, our churches, and our relationships with God. Yes, I realize that being the #1 Sub can fill my heart for a day, but being loved by Jesus will give me love for eternity. His love is the only love teaches me in turn, to love. After all, of the three biggies, faith, hope, and love, the greatest one is LOVE.

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