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1 Corinthians 13: Love Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 06 December 2015

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It will be exactly 4 years ago on Jan 1 2012 that I will have given a message to you from this pulpit on 1 Cor. 13.  Some months ago William had asked me if I cared to revisit it.  I politely declined.  Then recently he asked me again, I thought it would be a bit unloving to deny doing a message on love after being asked twice.  So I started anew, in doing so, in writing this message, I lived out the adage that those who can’t, teach.  There is nothing more humbling for me than comparing my love to that of our Savior.  After he asked me the second time I realized that you have all heard some 204 sermons since then so I might be safe to revisit this topic.

Now we see love portrayed in all sorts of media… In Movies, Disney movies love is portrayed as a touchy feely, ethereal emotion that is devoid of any intellectualism.  In our Sunday school class years ago we used to say that ‘God does not want empty headed emotionalism, nor does He want empty hearted intellectualism’ but more often than not in books love is formulaic, it starts out at some point in time, grows in intensity , gets tested, and ultimately triumphs sappily and happily.  So in part, because we are saturated with this notion of a ‘soft’ love we find when we do actually say ‘I love you’ to people that there is no devotion to those words.  They ring hollow as a beer commercial.  Remember the Bud light campaign during the super bowl some years ago with the guys all saying I love you man?  That is no portrait of God’s salvific love.   Love requires thought and effort and devotion.  Love is not a battlefield as Joan Jett would have you believe true love, contrary to Bon Jovi, is not given a bad name by its giver, and Tina Turner only need read the first few verses of this chapter to know that love has everything to do with it.  And we should know that we are called to more than that.  More than puppy dog love, more than superficial love.  We are called to think and feel.  Love is a choice, a decision as much as an emotion.

Now, before we dive into the meat of this chapter let’s look at love in a few other places in scripture:

In Ephesians Paul spends the first three chapters telling us who we are based upon God’s calling and saving of a people.  In the last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul tells us how we ought to live in light of what God has done for us in the first three chapters and chapter four begins by saying “ walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another (how?)  in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” .  In chapter five he says “ follow God’s example therefore, as His dearly loved children and walk ( how? ) in the way of love”…  Walk in the way of love.  As God’s children we are called here to imitate our Father.  How?  By walking in the way of love.  So what does that mean, to love like God does?  It’s obvious right?  Just love.  That doesn’t need an explanation.  But remember how we can so easily dumb down the meaning of the word love?  That how if we say we love everything, then we really love nothing at all?

How we often say ‘ I love you’ and there is no binding consequence to those words.  We have made it so we can say those words without any demands being placed upon us.  That is not how our Father has loved us, is loving us and will continue to love us.  Trinity needs to imitate our Father here. We can do this through Gods word and because God knows the struggles we have with this.  How can we love rightly?  Consider this story from one of  Robert Colemans books,  called ‘The Master Plan of evangelism’ amongst others.  As an aside, I highly recommend this book and in it, Coleman records the story of a little boy whose sister is in dire need of a blood transfusion.  She was suffering from the very same disease that he himself had recovered from a few years earlier.  The doctor had made it clear that given the girls condition, her only chance for recovery was dependent upon  he transfusion of blood from someone who had previously had the disease and conquered it.  That blood would have the antibodies in it needed to defeat the disease.  Because this was in the news so much this year it may sound familiar as it is similar to what ebola patients have to do.  Well the children shared the same blood type so that made the boy an ideal donor and after speaking with the parents the doctor asked the boy ‘would you give your blood to your sister Mary?’  The eight year old boy, Johnny, hesitated, his lip trembled and then he smiled and said ‘sure’.  ‘Sure for my sister’   Now soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room.  Mary was pale and thin: Johnny robust and healthy.  Neither spoke but as their eyes met Johnny grinned and said that it would be ok.  As the nurse inserted the needle into Johnnies arm his smile faded as he watched the blood flow from his arm.  When they almost had enough blood, johnny looked at the doctor and asked ‘ Doctor, when will I die?’  It was only then the doctor realized why Johnny hesitated when he ask him to give his blood.  Johnny though giving blood to his sister meant that he must give up his life for hers.  He was mistaken about the cost of love.

Jesus Christ was not.  He knew the cost and gave us a command…..in John 15:13 He states ‘greater love hath no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends’ … there is no confusion to how we are to love and lest we think so, the preceding verse of john 15:12 states it well ‘ This is my command: love one another as I have loved you’.  Get that?  How do we go there for each other? For the Christian we just met?

Well, have you heard of sympathetic resonance?  Let’s say we have a concert grand piano on the left side of this stage and another on the right side.  Now if Gary, Miss Barb or Glenna were at the piano on the right side and struck middle c…. the middle c string in the piano to stage left would begin to vibrate if it is harmonically in tune with the other piano.   If we moved the piano on the left far enough away from the other it would not respond as such and if we moved them to within inches of each other it would respond with more vigor.  if yoy have ever been to a piano bar you may have seen two grands up against each other.  In this way one player can actually play two pianos at once through this harmonic response.  See, you can even hear the second piano though it were not struck.  We have sympathetic resonance with the man Jesus.  As a man He knows well what we go through in trying to love.  As Deity, He can help us respond to Himself as he plays the keys as it were through His word.  See we love in accordance to how He loves.  The further we are from Him and his word, the less we respond if at all and the closer we are to him, the faster and stronger we respond.  Our Love for others is a reflex response to the love we are shown from Christ. He hits our heartstrings and we react.

So  again I ask…what does that look like? How does it manifest itself? How does it evidence itself?  How can we live it out?

Paul tells us.  He says:  ‘follow God’s example therefore dearly loved children and walk in the way of love ( how? )- just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.’   This is a love best exemplified by the self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ for a people who were not worthy of it.  This is how we are called to love one another and we need to remember that even in our marriages, even in our relationships with each other here at Trinity, with our children and family, that we love each other as sinners this side of heaven.  There will come a day when we will love each other as saints without disappointment, without conflict, without stains, as priests and kings.  We are getting to that point but we are not there yet.  Not this side of eternity.  But for the here and now, we are called to love each other just as we are, just as Christ loved us and John tells us that God IS love.  John is saying more than God exemplifies love, more than God created love, more than the idea that God loves, John says God IS love.  This gets to the very essence of who God is, it is His very nature.  And the fact that we are loved by the author of love is a very big deal.  Look at how Jesus prayed in the garden “ you have loved them just as you have loved Me “.  That means God loved you before you were born, for all eternity past as Jesus says in the next verse  FOR you loved me before the foundations of the earth.  We have been, are being and will be loved by God.

So how does that help us love?  We know that because God loved us and we have come to know this through His Spirit, that He has commanded us to love one another.  The fact that we are called to emulate that love, his love,  can be overwhelming.  But we can, with the help of the Spirit and His word.   I mean I get that I am called to love God, He is easy to love.  But, you guys?  Trinity Baptist, my family, my friends, you mean God tells me I gotta love them to?  Yep.  We are obliged to love one another.  In  Cor. 14 Paul tells us to pursue love, In Colossians he tells us to put on love, to wear it as clothing.  In 1 Thessalonians 3 we are called to increase and abound in love.  In 1 peter 4 we are told to stay fervent in love.  In Hebrews we are called to stimulate each other’s love ( to spur each other on to love and good deeds ).  Love is what our father is and it is what we are called to be about.  We must be in tune with what He is playing/loving and we will automatically love in turn and we have experienced love in such abundance that we should not be able to help ourselves in sharing it among others.  Jesus gives us an imperative when he says "a new commandment I now give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you"

Now, back to 1 Cor 13…  think of these fifteen descriptions of what love is as though Paul shined love through a prism and we are seeing its component parts.

This love is an absolute necessity for us.  We see that without this love that nothing else matters, Paul tells us this in the first three verses here in 1 Cor. 13 , in versus 4-7 he speaks to the characteristics of this love and in versus 8-14 he speaks to the enduring nature of this love.  This is often read at weddings and while that is not necessarily wrong, it is not the context of what Paul is doing here.  He is correcting the church in the first 12 chapters and takes a moment here to tell these people that there would be no argument over gifts if love were their predominate characteristic.  He is saying that a lack of love from some has aroused a spirit of disunity and disagreement.  So he is telling them, without love doctrine, or anything else does not matter.  Without love the gifts we are given to use ion each other’s behalf are worthless.

Love is the stabilizing force that binds us and our gifts together. Love is essential.

In Vs. 4-7 we see Paul pivot from the theoretical to the practical. He puts on display the characteristics of Christian love for us to emulate.  This is a portrait of true love. 

Let’s look at this picture in vs. 4-7 again. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Let's look at these components of love a minute…

1st) We see Love is patient or slow to anger.  This presupposes that we will be offended even from within our marriages and within the church and that we are called to have self-restraint in the face of provocation.  It means we will not avenge wrongs against us even though it is within our power to do so.  Christian love endures long and ongoing attacks and that is patience.  God was patient with us and punished His Son instead of reacting as sin deserved.  We must be patient with each other.  Love does not have a quick fuse.

2nd) We see Love is kind.  Patience says you can injure me and I will not retaliate back to injure you.  Kindness says not only will I not retaliate but I will do everything in my power for your good.  We are called to be quick to show kindness and help others even if it is expensive and costs us time, money, physical labor, or is emotionally taxing.

As we look on, Paul also tells us what love is not.

3) It is not envious.  It does not envy, or you could say it is not jealous.  Envy is the spirit of dissatisfaction with and opposition to the prosperity of others compared to our own.  I want that persons gifts, their power, looks, money, intellect, well behaved children, friends, you name it.  It is the green eyed monster that can be very soul destroying.  In star wars… you all have heard about a soon to be released new Star Wars movie right? Annikan Skywalker was turned to the dark side by jealousy; he wanted power he did not have.  He was envious and ultimately it consumed him and turned him into a completely different person than he was originally.  Love rejoices in the success of others.  Love wants prosperity for others, it wants others promoted, it gives thanks when others gifts are used, it rejoices in their good looks, their intelligence.  Love and jealousy are mutually exclusive. Jealousy can tear apart a church, a family. Its antithesis is love.

4) Love does not boast.  Love is humble. It is not boastful or conceited.  Our love should be a humble love, void of arrogance, empty of pride, not boastful, without selfish ambition.  Love is not a Mac Davis song….lets see how many get that.  Love does not feel the need to constantly be the one who talks in classes prohibiting others from sharing because it feels itself superior.  Love does not need to hear itself speak all the time.  It doesn’t brag and say look at me and my accomplishments.  A loving person does not strive to be the center of attention, it does not desire the spotlight.  Love is not driven by lust for recognition.  We should, however be quick to promote, celebrate, honor and draw attention to others and rejoice when they succeed.

5) The idea that love is not arrogant or conceited is related to the previous thought but different.  Boasting is external, it is verbal.  Arrogance is the source from which boasting comes.  Arrogance is the delight and satisfaction we have in ourselves.  Remember the prayer of the Pharisee?  We need to be of the mind that everyone is more important than ourselves.  Boasting and arrogance impede our ability to love each other. Love is not selfish, it does not insist on its own way.  Love seeks the glory of God and the good of his people even if it is inconvenient.  We must be willing to put aside our agendas and become selfless.

6) Love is not rude, Love acts correctly, it is more than just a disposition, attitude or feeling.  It is those things but it is more.  Love has good manners, it has etiquette. Love does not use course words, it is not rude, behaving disgracefully.  Love is not morally bankrupt.  We are to speak to each other reflecting our stature as believers of Jesus Christ.  Being rude fails to regard the dignity of other believers as children of Christ.

7) Love does not insist on its own way.  Love is not selfish.  We are through love to serve one another, to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to regard one another as more important than ourselves.  There is here a denial of self-love when we tend to seek our own agendas or satisfaction without regard for the ideas and happiness of others while insisting on our own way.

8) Love is not irritable.  OK…… This is tough for some of you…It is not easily angered.  Heather, Hanna, You two need not say a word to this.  Love is not quick to take offense, it is not touchy, is not aroused to anger, not easily provoked, does not carry a sharpness of spirit that bristles at offenses.  Love is not exemplifies in the person we feel the need to walk on eggshells around.  Proverbs 14 says a quick tempered man acts foolishly, proverbs 15 says he stirs up strife. An irritable man is a divisive man, a contentious man, a problematic man.  Our example, Jesus, was insulted and slandered and yet He was not provoked to anger.

9th) Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.  So we see love is not resentful nor does it keep records of wrongs done against us.  Love does not resent others, indeed it celebrates the success of others.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs, a mental list of transgressions against us.  Those that do this eventually become blinded by the wrongdoings and can no longer see people except through the grid of their transgressions and as those transgressions increase ( and they will ) they can only see the problems the person they are looking at has and can no longer see the person at all.  This promotes self-righteousness and gives us a sense of rightful vengeance which are the opposite if love. Love covers a multitude of sins.   The idea is that we cannot see the grid of transgressions because it is covered by our love for the person.  Think of love as a blanket that covers a multitude of sins so we no longer see them.

10th) Love rejoices with the truth.  When we ask to be like Jesus and pick up our cross and follow him, there is a note of suffering to that.  Suffering in this life will come and we oft ask how can we rejoice in tragedy or hard times?  The book of Hebrews tells us Jesus is seated at the right hand of the father, anointed with joy.  Jesus, right now, this instant is the most joyful person ever to live.  He is anointed with joy from the father and get this…. We inherit, through him; all that is his and this joy is a part of that inheritance.  When we are called to be like Jesus, we are not called to be mournful wretches, we are called to share in his joy as given to him by the father.  If we do that, a lost world will see something very different than what it is used to seeing.  The truth here is that Jesus, that love itself won. Love does not rejoice in injustice, in fact love fights injustice.

11th) Love bears all things and endures all things.  Love does not put the wrong doings of others on display for all to see, no love attempts to cover up what is displeasing in another and present them in the best light.  It does not ignore sin but it does not parade it for the world to see.  Love does not delight in the sin of others.  When we do so we are stirring up strife and hatred.  Love does not gossip and relish in the opportunity to expose flaws in others.   God does not throw back your sin in your face, he throws it away never to be brought up again and He is our example.

12) Love believes all things.  It is not cynical, suspicious or wary.  It does not assume the worst and it presupposes that gossip is not true.  It errs on the side of trusting too much rather than too little.  Our obligation is to love, not doubt one another.  Understand, we are not called to empty headed emotionalism here and are not called to throw critical thinking out the door, but we are called to love first.

13th) Love hopes all things.  How? Because we know the end of the story.  God wins.  We will fail here and now but someday we will be made perfect.  That guy over there in the other pew that ticked you off last week will someday be made perfect and we can have hope in that.  Our hope for the non believer is that they would be saved, we do not know their outcome and can therefore have hope that they too will come to perfection. When there is no evidence, love believes the best, when the evidence is in the negative, love hopes for the best and when hope is repeatedly dashed, love remains courageous and relentless.

14th in our countdown of loves greatest traits is that It endures all things.  Frankly, that is what is means to suck it up.  Love endures in times of trouble and persecution.  Love fights to its dying breath.  Moses defended the Israelites even though they sought to kill him, but his love endured.  And Christ’s love endured even the cross when He asked the father to forgive them and the them there…. Well that’s you too.

Paul ends the chapter by showing that love endures...  See love is not fragile, it triumphs, and it lasts.  Prophesies and tongues will and have passed.  But when the perfect comes, when Christ comes again, it is love that shall remain and reign.  I think here at the end of the chapter, Paul is simply explaining the everlasting strength of this love he has taken such care to unpack for us in the preceding versus.

Recently in Paris and San Bernardino we have seen what love is not.  I have a cousin that went to work two weeks ago for San Bernardino County as the h.r. director.  Had it not been for work related issues, he would have been at the party where 14 people died in the name of a false religion.  That hit home.  Some things I realized while watching this unfold were that we cannot legislate good behavior.  We cannot bomb evil out of existence.  We cannot fight the war that ends all wars.   What we can do is to love like we are shown here in 1 Cor. 13.

There is no defense for this weapon.

The enemy is real and it is not other people.  It is our sin and Satan.  Both of our enemies are defenseless against the onslaught of love we can bring to bear against them.  Satan and sinhave nowhere to hide from the light which is love.  We however can take refuge in the very thing that destroys evil. We are not defenseless.  We can and should pray for our enemies.  We can and should pray that we may be the emissaries of God’s love to a lost and dying world.  We can draw closer to God and as such be more  responsive to that sympathetic resonance we share with Christ.  Love won at Calvary.  God is Love, He won.  As such we are able to see through Paul an idea of what true love is, a call to the absolute necessity of love, and then the truth that love is the virtue that does not die.  If we truly love each other, we always will, in this life and the next.  Love is never ending and it only ever gets better.

That is how we are loved and have been loved and will be loved and that is how we are called to love each other here at Trinity.  Let us indeed spur each other onto love and good deeds for the world, for the lost to see so that God may be glorified and draw a people unto himself.

~ Ron Payne ~ 


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 December 2015 )

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