Summary: Our world is really into lust, not love. God's kind of love is all about giving, doing what is best for the other person. Jesus is the best model of that. And God is the very definition of it. God's love can flow through us to a needy world.
Love That’s Out of this World
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 February 10, 2019
Have you ever been around someone who is obviously brilliant, magnificently gifted, and just a pain in the neck to get along with? That’s kind of what today’s scripture is all about. Remember a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about Paul’s letter to First Church of Corinth? Evidently, that church was a mess. It was full of self-centered braggarts who wanted nothing more than to toot their own horn. Paul spent a considerable time writing to them about spiritual gifts—everyone has one, everybody’s is different from everybody else’s, and we need each other in the church body.
In the very next chapter, Paul wrote, “Now let me show you a more excellent way.” Then came his most beautifully composed script, the love chapter of the Bible, what you often hear at weddings. He starts it, though, in the context of those spiritual gifts he’s been talking about. Paul says you can have the most amazing gifts ever—like speaking in the language of angels, or having enough faith to move mountains, or giving everything you have to the poor—amazing ways to serve God, but if you don’t have love, you have nothing.
That’s how important today’s subject is. Love trumps every spiritual gift, love tops every miracle God may work through you, love precedes every course of action you might take. Love stands above them all!
Certainly, our world today is infatuated with...lust. It’s lust, not love. Lust is about getting, while authentic love is all about giving. We have hosts of online dating services. We have reality TV shows where people pick a spouse. In Hollywood, a first-date kiss always leads to sex. The porn industry in America makes more money than all professional sports teams combined. Meanwhile, lots of people are living lonely, loveless lives.
So what is love? Well, the Bible says, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 says God is the very definition of love. The more we get to know God, the more we understand love. Jesus, the God-man, also personifies love. C.H Dodd once said, “I Corinthians 13… is a portrait for which Christ Himself has sat.” If you want a role model in how to love, you have only to look at the life of Jesus.
Paul chooses the Greek word “agape” to describe godly love. It is more than the romantic sexual love of “eros,” although that also comes from God. It is more than the friendship bond of “philia,” or the parental sacrifice of “storge,” although those both come from God as well. Agape is a sacrificial love which seeks to do what is best for the other. “For God so loved the world, that he... gave.” Agape love is a giving love.
An anonymous writer sought to describe this kind of love with the poem, “What Is the Love of God?”
The love of God is like ... a mother’s calming words, a father’s strong embrace, a friend’s laughing countenance, telling my soul, “I am not alone in this world,?there are others who travel with me.”
The love of God is not like ... a list of joyless burdens, a symbol of power, a religion that spews hate and anger toward otherness, and makes God in its own image.
The love of God is like ... a safe place, a gift, a helpful note on life, love, responsibility, and death.
The love of God is not like ... a competition,?a salary earned,?a scolding from abusive parents who are not happy with how you turned out.
The love of God is like... a perfect day,?a one of a kind love,?a relationship so wonderful that words fail to do it justice.
?That’s just one description. The Bible pictures agape love, God’s love, as “love in action,” not “love in abstraction.” True love acts! Let’s face it: words are cheap! You can tell someone you love them, but do your actions match up? Does your walk match your talk?
Donald Barnhouse took the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), and showed how love shines through each. He writes, “Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Long-suffering is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self forgetfulness. Self control is love holding the reigns.” Love acts.
Today’s scripture gives 15 attributes of true love in action. Don’t worry; I love you too much to put you through a 15-point sermon today. And really, they speak for themselves. On the positive side, Paul says love is patient with people and gracious with generosity. He also says what love is not: Love never envies, or brags, or is arrogant, since that is not selfless service to others. Love is never rude or overbearing, love never wants its own way. It is not irritated or angered over personal offense, and finds no pleasure in someone else’s sin, even the sin of an enemy. On the positive side, love is devoted to truth in everything. Love protects, believes, hopes, and endures what others reject. Love never fails.