Summary: This is a homily from I Corinthians 13 that the Lord gave me to share in a recent wedding.
Agape Love, a Wedding Homily
Allen and Michelle, you have chosen I Corinthians 13 as the Biblical theme for your wedding. How does the Holy Spirit want to use this passage in His Word to give you a Christ centered home and marriage? In order to answer that question, we need to appreciate the kind of love Paul shares with us in this memorable Chapter.
The New Testament was written in Greek, a rich language that has four different words that describe four differ types of love. The first word is one of affection. It is the love for family. It even describes the love that members of the animal kingdom have for their offspring. It is the word most often used in referring to the love parents have for their children. As tender as such love is it is not the love described in I Corinthians 13.
One word that never appears in the Greek New Testament is the word from which we get our English word “erotic.” It describes the love of attraction between the two sexes. As import as this relationship is in marriage it is not the love we see in I Corinthians 13.
We all know that Philadelphia is called “The city of brotherly love.” The very word comes to us from another Greek word, often used in Scripture, that refers to friendship, the love that binds two friends together. It also paints a tender picture but is not the lasting love portrayed in the Love Chapter. Although it is often a long lasting love, it describes a love that is based on mutual affection, common interest, and appreciation. It often says, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” There is still a deeper and more eternal love than this.
The word most often used in Scripture for Christian love is the word “agape,” and has itself become a familiar English word. Agape is the word for love in I Corinthians 13. Agape is best described as “unconditional love.” Agape love embraces the intellect as well as the emotions. Agape love is a decision of the will that says, “By the power of the Holy Spirit living and working in me, I choose to love this way.”
Agape love always gives, never expecting anything in return. Agape is not based on any mutual attraction for the object of its affection. It is love that loves the unlovable, love that loves those that may by all outward appearances be unattractive indeed. Agape love knows no limits; it sets no boundaries or limits.
When we love agape style, we always look out for the wellbeing of those we love placing their interests before our own. Agape love follows in the footsteps of Jesus Who in the Sermon says in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Jesus always sets the example for us by “practicing what He preaches,” for as they drove the nails through His hands and feet He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”
Agape love is the self sacrificial love of Jesus who left His heavenly throne to die on the cross for us “while we were still sinners,” when we were at our worst, when we were most unlovable. As the love of Jesus always looks out for our welfare and best interest, so when the two of you love each other with agape love, you will look out for the welfare and best interest of the one you love.
Only agape love will bind the two of you together “until death separates you.” Your agape love for each other will always be patient, kind, and hopeful. As you love each other in the spirit of agape, your love will never be jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. It will not demand its own way. It will not be irritable, never be glad about injustice, and never give up. As the Holy Spirit binds the two of you together as one in His agape love, your love will not loose faith; in short your love will endure through all circumstances no matter how difficult and trying them may become. It will endure all hard times. Such agape love as this lasts forever.
I close with this true story which I feel is best illustration of agape love. In the summer of 1960 the great musical star Mary Martin was playing the lead role of Maria von Trapp in Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC on Broadway. Lyrist Oscar Hammerstein, II was on his death bed. “One evening just before Mary went on stage, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein, and it said: