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Summary: Fourth sermon in the summer 2006 Series, “Being God’s People by Serving, Obeying, and Giving.”

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What is love? Love has always been a big topic of discussion between us humans. Much is said about love and much is written about love.

However, it seems to me that we have never been able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, ‘What is love?’ (1) But we are often able to describe love when we see it as Pastor Todd Cognet does when he quoted an article entitled ‘What is Love-From A Kid’s Point of View?’ from the March 14, 2002 issue of Light Singer. Here are some of the responses:

(2) "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love."

(3) "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."

(4) "Love is when someone hurts you, and you get so mad, but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings."

(5)"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay."

(6)"Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

(7) "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."

(8) "Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."

(9) "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."

(10) "You really shouldn’t say ’I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

We can ‘see’ love in action in these wonderful statements, can’t we? Maybe this is why we cannot satisfactorily answer the question, ‘What is love?’ because love is a verb and expressed in acts of service and support.

(11) Our summer series, “Being God’s People by Serving, Obeying, and Giving,” is focusing on three important values that our church operates need by. (Hey, a photo from last year’s Bible School!)

(12) Last month we looked at the value of service, what I called a motivational value. We examined the opening chapters of I Corinthians and discovered that Paul had to remind the Corinthian believers that they were to be concerned about serving the Lord while being focused on the power of the cross to change them and not be hung up on preaching personalities or flowery preaching designed to impress them.

(13) Today, we focus on the foundational value of obedience, which brings us to our main text. Our text, which is one of the most quoted and favored chapters in the Bible, comes after Paul’s comments regarding the important place that all believers have in the body of Christ, the church.

Now, you might be asking at this point, ‘Jim, if we are looking at the foundational value of obedience, how is love tied into obedience?’ Good question! I’m glad that you asked! Here is my long-winded answer!

As we look at I Corinthians 13, please notice that there are three separate segments to it. (14)

The opening segment is really a summary of what Paul has been talking about from chapter 1 to this point and is the completion of his thought at the end of chapter 12 when he says, ‘First, however, let me tell you about something else that is better than any of them!’

‘Them’ refers to the spiritual gifts, God given abilities used in the church, which Paul has just spoken of in chapter 12.

Chapter 13 is a transition to a new segment of I Corinthians in which he will summarize his thoughts about the competitive and frankly, prideful, atmosphere in the church that needs to be changed. Chapter 13 is about an even more foundational value – love.

Yet, love is also a motivational value like service as well as an operational value like giving that we will be addressing next month. With love, we serve, obey, and give. This is what Paul is also saying in the opening segment of this chapter.

‘Without love,’ says Paul, ‘great speeches mean little.’ ‘Without love the insight of wisdom can degenerate into meaningless babble.’

‘Without love,’ he goes on to say, ‘acts of great faith could come across as ‘fakey.’ Finally, ‘without love acts of sacrifice could be seen as merely grandstanding.’

Love is a critical quality for Christianity. It is central to our conception of God because God is love and because ‘God so loved the world’ He sent His Son to die for our sins.

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