Summary: I Corinthians 13 tells many things about God’s definition of love, but it only tells a few things about what love "is". Do you know what love "is" and why God chose to define love in this way?
OPEN: Amazon.com is a site on the internet that sells thousands of books (more than you can find in any bookstore). One of the advantages of this site is that you can look up books by “topic”. So, someone did just that. They searched for certain topics and were intrigued by what they found. For example, they sought how many books were on Amazon that dealt with
• Heaven, and they found 2,652 book titles
• Money had 10,304 listings
• There were 16,765 for “Sex,”
• 18,818 for “God,”
• BUT there were 30,066 for “Love.”
ILLUS: One preacher said he looked up the definition of love in his Compton’s encyclopedia, and he found that there was not one single article on love. It only referred him to emotions and sex. So, he looked up the word "emotion" in his encyclopedia and - in the entire three-page article, love was only mentioned in one sentence.
Then he looked up the word "sex." And under the subject of sex, he found 12 different articles. AND in those 12 different articles, he found the word "love" in only one paragraph.
After having done this research, he thought to himself: “That is so true, Americans know a whole lot more about sex than they do about love. The so-called love songs on the radio are not love songs. They are lust songs.” (Jim Mooney)
Now, I don’t know if that’s ABSOLUTELY true but I do know that a lot of people are confused about what love is really all about. Even back in the church at Corinth there were people who were confused about it.
The Corinthian congregation was filled with people who had become Christians because they had responded to the idea that God actually loved them and sent His only begotten Son.
As the Apostle John wrote:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1John 4:10
So these Christians at Corinth knew what love was - because God had loved them first. But, after they’d been Christians for awhile… they’d forgotten what love was all about. And so, Paul dedicated an entire section of letter to them to describe what love meant to God:
This chapter is so poetic and eloquent and precise that it’s one of the best known sections of the Bible. And it’s become so popular that it’s often used in wedding ceremonies. One of the reasons so many people love this chapter is because it does such a powerful job of answering the question: what is love?
Seemingly everyone who’s ever read these words agrees:
YES… THAT IS WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT!
One person even went so far as to say:
"I Corinthians 13… is a portrait for which Christ Himself has sat.” C. H. Dodd
So… what IS love?
Well, Paul tells us:
"Love is patient and love is kind" (vs. 4)
"It rejoices with the truth." (vs. 6)
"It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (vs. 7)
Now I Corinthians 13 tells us love a great deal more about love, but these phrases I just quoted focus on what love IS (we’ll focus on what this chapter says love is “not” next week).
So we’ll let’s being with that first phrase:
"Love is patient and love is kind."
What I found interesting was the order of these two words. Paul could have said Love is KIND… and… PATIENT, but that’s not the way the Spirit led him to write it down.
Love is FIRST patient… then it’s kind.
Patience comes first.
The KJV doesn’t use the word "patient" here. Instead it uses the phrase: "suffers long”.
The Greek word in this passage is actually a compound word made up of two different terms that literally translated says: “long” and “wrath” (or “anger”).
Now if I didn’t know any better I might think that a person who loved the way they should would be a person who would be angry for a long period of time. But that’s not what it means. The Greek word is intended to imply that it takes a LOT to make this person angry. You have to drag them a LOOOOONG way down the road before they get mad. They suffer a lot before they ever blow up.
Now, if you love someone, there’s going to be a time or two when they’re going to make you upset. Isn’t that true? (I gave the audience a moment to respond). Now don’t go looking at the person next to you, but you know it’s true. In fact, it’s often the people you care about who can make you upset the most. They know where your hot buttons are.