Summary: It is natural to love them that love us, but it is supernatural to love them that hate us. Love never fails.
Opening illustration: Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, and then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
Let us turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13: 4 -7 and see how it can apply to our lives for making that transformation so that the lives of others can be touched by the love of Christ flowing through our lives.
Introduction: In 1 Corinthians 13, we find one of the most beautiful and familiar chapters in the Bible. This chapter is typically read at weddings and anniversary celebrations. It has even been set to music. Yet, this was never the original intent. Instead, Paul was writing a rebuke to a dysfunctional church for their abuse of the spiritual gifts. Typically though, this understanding is often ignored. Consequently, I wonder if most Christians have truly pondered the deeper meaning of this passage. Have we heard this Scripture so often that we no longer think about what the words mean? I would suggest that if we ignore the context of this chapter we are in danger of missing its major impact.
Another aspect of our society is the confusion between LOVE and LUST. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. Thus the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others. In fact this passage does not show any kind of emotion or sentiments but exhibits in action as to what love entails.
That love the Bible calls Agape love. It does not depend on the world’s criteria for "love". Nevertheless, believers can fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that a lover feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind. There are many reasons a proper understanding of the truth of God's word (and of the world's lie) is critical and one of the foremost is Jesus' declaration that “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another.” (John 13:35). (Comment: Agape is the badge of discipleship and the landmark of heaven! (John 13:35). )
Paul will argue that love is an action, not an emotion. The kind of love Paul will talk about is seen, experienced, and demonstrated. This is contrary to our culture that honors personal feelings above almost everything. We do what we want when we want because we “feel” like it. And if we don’t “feel” like it, we don’t do it. But as I study this passage, I am struck by the complete absence of any stress on personal feelings. Hence, if love is an action, not an emotion, we need to study what God has to say about love. We need to know what love is and what it looks like when it is lived out in the church.