Summary: In 1 Corinthians 13 God teaches us what love really is, and how counter-cultural His understanding of love is. He calls us to be counter-cultural as well!
Love. A lot of things come to mind with that short work. If I asked each of you to come up with a song title that used the word Love, I’ll bet we could each come up with a different one. We like to talk about love, to hear love stories, to share about when we first met our spouses. It’s all good stuff no doubt. It’s nice, it’s sweet, it makes us feel all warm inside. But is this kind of thing all there is? In fact, is this kind of thing really “love” at all, at least as far as God is concerned.
I was listening to a podcast of a radio program a couple of weeks ago. It was a program that does a wonderful job of just telling stories about ordinary people who experience some pretty extraordinary things, and one of these stories stuck with me. It was a true story of a young graduate student who went to China to study, and learned how to speak enough Chinese to participate in a Chinese opera. Kind of a crazy deal! But the story really took off when you discover that he fell in love with a gal who played in the orchestra for this opera.
And it was so funny to hear his account of trying to ask her out, and the cultural differences they struggled through (he ended up inadvertently eating a fried chicken’s head on their first date). And of course, in such a huge nation, with such huge cities, he came back to the US, lost track of her, and went back a year later to find her. He did, and they got married. AHHHH!
Great story, but this isn’t what stuck with me. What stuck with me, is the interview they did after being married for awhile. They recounted the real and genuine struggles they had to overcome after they got married. They had huge cultural difference, a language problem, very different family backgrounds. It was really hard for 6,7, 8 years, really hard. But they made it, and are still married, and enjoy being married. But here is the line that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Ready? He said, in the interview, “Everyone wants to know the story of how we met and fell in love, but nobody asks us to tell the story of how we stayed together.”
Wow! What a powerful thought. And true. The real amazing story is never how someone fell in love. To fall in love is about as hard to do as falling off a bike. The real love story is always found, not in the emotions, but rather in the choices, in the commitments, and the sacrifices in a relationship. Real love is an activity. And real love isn’t easy.
I say that as we take a look at our Epistle lesson for today, and we have some verses that deal with the whole idea of love. How many of you either had these verses read at your wedding, or have been to a wedding where the verses were read? They are good ones for a wedding for sure, because they help us understand how God sees love, and the kind of love he created us to share with one another.
But if you look at the context, these verses are meant to be applied, not just to marriages, but really to how we interact with all people as those who follow Christ. In short, these verses are counter cultural. They were back in the days they were written to the church in Corinth, and they are today. So this morning we are going to learn a little more about what God thinks of love, and what the word LOVE means to GOD. And we’re going to come away with 2 things: A deeper appreciation of God’s love for us, and a deeper sense of what it means to reflect God’s love to one another. And just like real love, this is not going to be an easy journey, but it will be a blessed one.
The first part of our journey starts with looking at what it means to have an absence of love. Just like in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart’s character can’t see how important his life has been until what? That’s right until an angel takes him around and shows him what the world would have been like without him. Sometimes, that’s the best way to understand how important something is.
And this is exactly what Paul does in the opening verses. “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” What a great way to start off a reading, makes you want to listen!
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”