Summary: This is the first sermon in a series of messages from I Corinthians 13.
Sermon: What Is Love?
Sermon Series: How to Improve Your Love-life.
Text: I Cor. 13:4-7
This past Valentine’s Day consumers spent millions of dollars to tell that someone special, "I love you." But what is love? We talk about it, sing about it, and search for it, but exactly what is it?
The best definition of love I’ve come across is found in I Corinthians 13:4-7: "(4)Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." -- I Cor. 13:4-7 ( NIV)
Of course there are different degrees of love, but these verses give a good general definition. 4 truths come to mind when I meditate on these verses.
I. Love Is Not Sex.
We live in a sex-crazed world which equates love with sex. However, a lot of what the world calls "love" is really LUST. Love is when you look at a person and think, "How can I help them?" Lust is when you look at a person and think, "How can they satisfy me?" And that’s a big difference!
If you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking of love in terms of sex, then you need to change your thinking - otherwise you will never experience what love really is and you will never develop strong and lasting relationships.
II. Love Is Not an Emotion.
The world says that love is an emotion - which isn’t true. Love affects emotions. It creates emotions. It causes emotions. But it is not an emotion.
III. Love Is an Action.
Love isn’t something you feel, or something you say. It’s something you do. Read verses 4-7 and notice the 14 different actions Paul uses to describe love (patience, kindness, etc.).
Love, in a nutshell, is the good will you show toward someone. It’s treating someone with the qualities described in verses 4-7. Take Jesus as an example. He once said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13, NIV). Then He went out and laid down His life for us by dying on the cross as our atoning sacrifice. He did something to build us up - and that is love!
What about you, husbands and wives? Do you love each other? Then treat each other with the qualities mentioned in I Corinthians 13:4-7.
What about you, moms and dads? Do you love your children? Then treat them with the characteristics of love, as described in verses 4-7.
What about you, my brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you love your neighbors? Then treat them with the qualities mentioned in verses 4-7.
Somebody says, "Preacher, you don’t understand. I just don’t love . . . ." (you can finish the sentance on your own). I’m glad you brought this up, because it brings us to the fourth truth.
IV. Love Is a Choice.
Look at verses 4-7 again. They describe 14 actions that you CHOOSE to do or not do.
There’s a myth going around that says love is uncontrollable. "I just fell in love" - like it was a ditch or something. You don’t fall in love anymore than you fall out of love. Love is a choice. You choose to love. You choose not to love.
Somebody says, "But preacher, those feelings just aren’t there." So what? You can still choose to love someone, even if the feelings aren’t there.
In fact, loving someone when you don’t feel like it is a greater expression of love than loving someone when you do feel like it. Love is getting up in the middle of the night and helping a sick child when that’s the last thing you want to do. Love is being patient with your spouse when they’re irritable. Love is when you do the loving thing even when you don’t feel like it.
When you love in spite of your feelings, that’s what I call loving by faith. And don’t forget, it’s easier to act your way into a feeling than feel your way into an action. If you act in a loving way, eventually the feelings will come back.
What about you? Have you been deceived by the myth that love is uncontrollable? Have you stopped loving someone because "the feelings just aren’t there anymore"? Maybe it’s a former friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a relative, or your own spouse. Remember, love is a choice. And maybe you need to make that choice right now.