Summary: An inductive sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 where you never say the word ’love’

PORTRAITS OF ___________



As I begin my sermon, I would like to define something that seems as though it does not have just one definition. I don’t like words like that. I like words that have one definition and we can all be on the same page… but this word is a little different. There are hundreds of definitions… maybe even thousands. It seems that every culture defines it different. Every poet has his or her own twist. Every singer and song writer that chooses to speak about it has their own take. So how am I supposed to define something simply and easily for us when it is impossible for the rest of the world?!

I can describe it I guess, but maybe never define it. I know that it is not just a feeling, but an action. I know that it can be fleeting and superficial or deep and sacrificial. It can be used in the bedroom as well as after a child’s dance recital. It is used about husbands and wives and about tacos and chocolate.


Maybe a story will help… it is an old story… so maybe you have heard it. It is a story about Ted Stallard who undoubtedly qualifies as the one of "the least" in this world. Turned off by school. Very sloppy in appearance. Expressionless. Unattractive. Even his teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.

If only she had studied his records more carefully. They read:

1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation.

2nd grade: Ted could do better. Mother seriously ill. Receives little help from home.

3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year.

4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.

Christmas arrived. The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher’s desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape. Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted’s package fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too.

At day’s end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher’s desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I’m glad you like my presents." He left. Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude.

The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted. Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few.

Time came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note:

Dear Miss Thompson:

I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class.


Four years later, another note arrived:

Dear Miss Thompson:

They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.


And four years later:

Dear Miss Thompson:

As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.

Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted’s mother would have sat.

Does that help you define it? Does that give you a good definition? I am not sure. Perhaps the best approach we can have is to look at the life of Jesus and see how He worked it out… as I said before, it is hard for me to define it, but I can sure describe it for you. I would like to describe it for you in the life of Jesus. I would like to paint a word picture for you of this thing and allow Jesus’ life to be the important details. If anyone’s life is an example about this, then it certainly is Jesus!


The first portrait I found was in John 8:3-11. John 8:3-11 says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin.”

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