Summary: This is installment 11 of a series I did on I Corinthians 13, and it deals with the fact that love "bears all things."
“The Protection of Love”
March 2, 2003
Love of Another Kind – I Corinthians 13
Pre-Sermon Thematic Introduction
We’ve been talking about love, about how important it is, and what it looks like in our lives.
Coming, as do most of us, from the left-brained branch of Christianity, we pride ourselves
on correct doctrine; we put an abbreviated doctrinal statement in our bulletin. Important!
Without love, our doctrinal precision is worthless…worthless.
We’re known for vibrant worship…without love, it is worthless.
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Faith is essential. Still, extreme, mountain-moving faith is of no value without love.
Some of us give sacrificially; without giving sacrificially, it is difficult for us to imagine that we are truly following Jesus. You can’t get around that: as I told a friend this week, and as I’ve said here before, the depth of your Christian commitment is shown more accurately in few places than in your willingness to give financially. And yet, without love, you can give your last red cent to no avail!
Today, our theme begins a summary section in which Paul uses four parallel descriptions in order to demonstrate the superiority of love.
Love, we might say, acts like Armor-All! It protects others.
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” Thus said Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello, on the occasion of his military demotion for having gotten drunk. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” We speak today about the importance of love acting to guard the good name of another, because love protects!
Paul is speaking, in verse 7, in hyperbole to make a point—a point which careful Bible students won’t stretch beyond Paul’s intent. He is not saying that love bears lying and bragging and ungodliness without taking a stance; he is certainly not saying that love is neutral on issues of holiness. Love does not bear blasphemy against God without opposing it. Calvin says, “we are not to bear with vices, so as to give our sanction to them by flattery, or, by winking at them, encourage them through our supineness.” There is a time when sin has to be exposed, of course; Paul himself argues this.
Rather, the word stego means to cover or to support; while it has been translated various ways in various translations, it seems that the idea involves protecting another. When I am walking in the love of God, I protect others, their reputations and their name, from ridicule or harm. I won’t gossip if I am serious about loving others. When there is sin involved, I will attempt to deal with it in such a way that it causes the least possible harm to all involved—and the most possible help. Love doesn’t expose, gloat, or condemn pridefully.
Regarding the church, it involves a basic disposition which recognizes brothers and sisters as members of the same body. Paul in speaking on spiritual gifts has made this point in chapter 12. Thus, to tear down another ultimately hurts me. Developing in our lives, then, this characteristic of love leads to unity in the body, so important to Jesus!
What is it that ought to prompt me to protect another?
I. I Know that God’s Grace Covers My Sin
We find in the Old Testament such a rich treasure of understanding about the nature of the God Who loves us. One item found in the ancient tabernacle, the center of Israel’s worship, was the mercy seat. We find this spoken of in Leviticus 16. Blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest. The mercy seat was a covering for the sins of the people, typical of a God Who would throw the mantle of His love over sin in the cross of Jesus Christ. When God forgives us, He doesn’t bring up our past sins; they are buried and gone. God’s New Covenant promise to us is that our sins will be remembered no more. “As far as the east is from the west,” the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103, “so far has he removed our sins from us.” One said, “God remembers to forget”.
On the other hand, the Bible indicates that it is Satan who is labeled the “accuser”, not God. It is he who will continually drag our sins out of the closet and try to beat us over the head with them. How many of us have been beaten up and beaten down by the work of Satan suggesting to our minds the wretchedness of our sin in an accusatory fashion. There are some Christian people who struggle with their understanding of God’s grace, who really, when it comes right down to it, don’t believe that God’s grace is truly sufficient for their sin.