Summary: A talk on the way love should look and be displayed, and the way we see spirituality.
Text: 1 Cor 13:1-7, Title: Church Personnel Manual, Date/Place: 2/5/12 NRBC
Opening illustration: Common problem in churches: lack of love. Even in Peru one of the local churches that we are working with experienced a fairly traumatic split that caused their reputation to be stained. Experience proves that a man, after opening his heart with faith to the joy of salvation, may soon cease to walk in the way of sanctification, shrink from complete self-surrender, and, while making progress in mystical feeling, become more full of self and devoid of love than he ever was.” “Love is biblically defined as an act of the will, accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object. Biblically, to love with your heart is to love with your “will.” Love is a choice. The Greco-Roman myth teaches that emotion leads and determines love; while the Bible teaches that emotion accompanies the choice to love; but the choice leads, not the emotion”
Background to passage: one writer said, “Perhaps no chapter in the Bible has been any more profoundly loved, widely quoted, or divorced from its context than the ‘love chapter’ of 1 Cor 13.” And so today, since we are proceeding through 1 Cor, we will listen to the text as it was intended: to be the methodology for the expression of spiritual gifts in the body, as well as a general church manual and modus operandi for the church. The background is that the Corinthians had clearly demonstrated a lack of love in their pursuit of spiritual gifts, and hurt many people. They had shown their lack of love in their factions and divisions in the first 4 chapters, in their toleration of sin in chapter 5 (by the way, it is the more loving thing to do to hold people accountable and challenge their sin). They demonstrated their lack of love by taking each other to court in chapter 6, withholding marital relations in marriage in chapter 7, flaunting their liberty to eat meat offered to idols in chapter 8, gorging themselves and starving others as well as looking down upon lower classes in chapter 11. This was a very loveless church. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” And so I am sure that didn’t see this congregation as a picture of a loving Savior who laid his life down in love for them.
The Futility of Loveless Spirituality (v. 1-3)
Remember that the Corinthians were caught up in a carnal mindset based on power and pride about how spiritual they were. So Paul specifically uses all the things that were important to their standard of judging who was spiritual, and says that if they did all these things to the max, but did it without love that it profits them nothing. Imagine being this spiritual giant…
Illustration: “Love is not an idea for Paul, not even a motivating factor for behavior. It IS a behavior. To love is to act, anything short of action is not love at all.” –Gordon Fee, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” -C. S. Lewis “It is much easier to be orthodox…or to be active in ministry in a church, than to show love” John MacArthur.
Think of the standard by which we judge spirituality (don’t equate this exercise with me saying that all these things SHOULD be the standards): come to church everyday, some days twice or three times; spend countless hours in prayer – 2 hrs in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, plus two more hours praying with your kids or grandkids, spouse, or neighbors; give half your income to the church or to other ministries and charitable causes; memorize large portions of the bible in King James, bible knowledge; serve in every leadership position in the church – deacon, pastor, teacher, choir, ministry heads, etc.; serve every behind-the-scenes job – cook, clean, work on committees, build; get messages from God; demonstrate love and holiness – you don’t listen to anything that is not Christian, never see any movie that is not rated PG, never let a word slip when you hit your finger with a hammer; books you read and people you quote are all well recognized superstar Christians; fast. If you could do all these things at 10X the level that you think is humanly possible, and yet to be the most spiritual person in the world, and not do them with love is equal to NOTHING.