Summary: Love is not only the key ingredient, but sometimes the missing ingredient in the church.
A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, "Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place." Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, "Look, Blockhead, the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand." Well, I guess I am a little better than Lucy. I love people, it is just certain individuals that I have a hard time with. Friends, in all seriousness, I suspect many of us have found that it is easier to talk about love, easier to believe in love, easier to be committed to love, than it is to actually do it.
This is very obvious in the church. As Christians we know 1 John 4:11 tells us that "since God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." This morning we celebrate the magnificent love God has shown us in Jesus Christ. Most of us are in total agreement that expressing love to our fellow Christians is part of the right response to that love. Yet, it is not always easy to do, and it doesn’t always happen. We sometimes pay a high price, a very high price, when we don’t love each other as we should. There seems to be an epidemic of church conflicts these days. I hear reports of huge fights occurring in other churches and see some little ones in our midst. These things can be very destructive. I know people whose wounds from these battles have not healed even after many years. Frankly, I believe the key ingredient in preventing these problems is love. A couple of weeks ago a pastor friend of mine said, "Dan, there is a lot that goes on in the church that has no connection with love." I’m afraid that’s true sometimes. Love is not only the key ingredient, but sometimes the missing ingredient in the church.
But what exactly do we mean by this little word "love"? That is one thing we will talk about today. Our text, as we continue our journey through 1 Corinthians, is Chapter 13 -- "The Love Chapter." Though this passage is most frequently used at weddings, God has much to say in these verses about how we are to live each and every day. Let’s pray that we would be able to hear as the Lord speaks to us through His Word.
Before we get started, I want to mention a couple of things which may help us in understanding this passage better. First, we need to consider the context of this chapter. When Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was not thinking about weddings or romance of any type. He brings up the topic of love in the context of the arguments the Christians at Corinth were having about spiritual gifts. The Corinthian church was plagued by all sorts of disputes and divisions, and Paul is reminding them that love is the key ingredient in building spiritual health in their church and in their individual lives. It is a mistake to totally disconnect this chapter from its context and treat it as a piece of lofty romantic prose. It is also a mistake to fail to see how Paul’s words in this passage transcend the situation at Corinth and miss how relevant they are for us today. We will try to walk in the middle of the path and avoid either of these ditches.