Summary: This is the first in a series on I Corinthians 13.
November 17, 2002
Love of Another Kind – I Corinthians 13
Priority One for the believer is given by Jesus in what we call “The Great Commandment”; He tells us that the most important thing we can do is to love God with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. And then He tells us that the second priority comes right in line behind that: “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” For the next few months, I want to talk about what love really looks and acts like. Stand with me as we read!
Love, according to the old song, “is a many splendoured thing.” It may be that, but it’s also a many-definitioned thing. Love is a funny word; we use it in so many different ways: I love my wife; I love these cheesy hot dogs; I love the Steelers; I love my car; I love my country; I love my dog; I love the Beach Boys. Further, there are any number of truncated definitions of love floating around out there; allow me to suggest some:
Love equals romance. Consequently, we learn that Jennifer Lopez (JLo) is once again “in love”, this time with another actor whom she’ll marry for a few months or a couple of years, undoubtedly until the romance fades. But the tabloids and the news outlets will treat this as though it’s noteworthy. And Americans by the hundreds of thousands will for some reason that escapes me be interested in this tripe. Love equals romance, to many; most of our popular songs which use the word “love” have nothing to do with love at all, but rather with romance, at best, or illicit sex, at worst.
Love is a feeling. “I-I-I, I’m hooked on a feelin’, high on believin’ that you’re in love with me.” So sang B.J. Thomas, long before most of you were born. His words sum up the idea that love is an emotion which gives us the oosie-goosies, or the warm fuzzies. Ooh, I remember the first time I got the warm fuzzies. It was 10th grade, I think, and it was Cindy Caldwell, and the first time I held her hand, I was smitten. Not that you 10th graders ought to be holding hands, mind you! And I was hooked on a feeling, baby! But that’s all it was—and when we had some little silly tiff, it was time to move on to greener pasture. Sadly, some folks think love equals the oosie-goosies.
Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Well, this one is a little dated; I never saw the 1970 classic “Love Story”, starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal—the film that probably defined the term “chick flick”, from what I’m told, but that was the signature line. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Love means never being critical or negative about another person. This is such a popular sentiment today. Love, so it goes, never takes hard stands; love equals so much “mush”. But love devoid of truth is not love at all; one of the most unloving things I can do is to allow error to be passed off as truth without lifting a finger to stop it. If a brother is overcome by some fault, the most loving thing I can do, according to Galatians 6:1, is to restore that person in a spirit of meekness, and to bear that person’s burdens. These things fulfill the law of Christ, Scripture tells us. And sometimes, that will mean rebuke. Loving rebuke and speaking the truth are at times the most loving things I can do for another person. Love is not mush!
Love, if we look at Galatians 5, is the very first fruit produced in one’s life by the indwelling Spirit of God. And as Paul tells us today, if we don’t have that fruit in our lives, developed by the Holy Spirit as we cooperate with his work of change, then everything else is for naught. Everything else is for naught!
Paul is writing about the subject of spiritual gifts in the section which encompasses I Corinthians 12-14. The Corinthians were a group of believers which struggled mightily with selfishness (not unlike many other churches!), and this selfishness manifested itself in a number of ways. One way was that there was a desire to exercise “showy” gifts, those which were “more supernatural” in nature; for instance, the gift of tongues. Paul writes this chapter to encourage the Corinthians to understand that love is more important than any of the particular gifts. The Corinthians were not lacking in spiritual gifts, but they were lacking in true spiritual fruit, because their lives were devoid of love. The gifts of the Spirit can only operate in a spiritual life, and a spiritual life is one which evidences the fruit brought forth by the Spirit, as we see in Galatians 5:22,23.