I think the very first cappuccino I ever tasted was one of those at the gas station, where you put your styrofoam cup under the machine, hold the button until the cup fills to about three fourths full and then you let the button go, so it can fill the rest of the way. If you hold the button too long the cup will overflow and you’ve got a mess and then you have to let the clerk know, and she gets mad that she has to clean up your mess and. . . well you get the picture. Such was the experience of my first cappuccino. I even think it was a French Vanilla Cappuccino. Man, did I feel special, a French Vanilla Cappuccino, from the Texaco Station off I-75.
Then one day, I had a cappuccino from a local coffee shop. I’m talking about the kind of cappuccino that the barista gives careful attention to the amount of time they spend steaming the milk. The espresso is tamped just perfectly and pulled at the right time. The milk is foamy and lays on top of the espresso/milk combo just like a fluffy cloud. I took my first sip, realizing that the French Vanilla concoction I had at the Texaco off of I-75, was no where close to the real deal that I was experiencing at this moment. Now when I walk by one of those machines at the gas station, I shake my head at the notion that I was getting a real cappuccino. I’ll never be deceived again though. I will forever know when I’m getting a real cappuccino, I’ve had the real deal. I know, go ahead. . . call me a coffee snob, I deserve it.
I’ve also learned how to recognize the real deal when it comes to Christ followers. Now I don’t want to sound judgmental, but Scripture says that we will be known by our fruit. Here in the south, its socially accepted and expected that everyone’s a Christian. You don’t have to go to church but once or twice a year, and you’re still considered a Christian in good standing with the rest of the cultural Christians. But just because your foot’s in the water, doesn’t mean that you’re wet. I’ve encountered lots of push button machine type Christians. They can spit out some kind of Christian jargon, and sound spiritual. They can post, “Like this Picture if you Like Jesus” on Facebook but nothing about that makes them the real deal. I’ve met people who have been “in the Church” a long time, taught Sunday School, set on church committees, have every church event t-shirt you could imagine, but none of that makes them the real deal.
Jesus tells us how to identify the real deal. He says that “everyone” will know we are the real deal if we have love for each other. We can quote the book of Leviticus, tell others how many sermons we’ve preached and what our spiritual giftings are. We can look holy. Wear any “Christian” article of clothing we want to, but if we don’t love others – we are a fake. Paul says the same thing in one of my most favorite passages of Scripture. We love to read it at weddings, but I believe 1 Corinthians 13 is a daily must read for any true follower of Christ. This chapter is a guidepost, a litmus test. If the same things said in this chapter about love, can’t be said about us, then we simply aren’t the real deal.
So lets read this chapter together. Let’s pray that God allows this chapter to be the most accurate descriptor of our life. No more push button, instant cappuccinos, but the carefully crafted, perfectly blended real deal.
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)