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Great Themes of the Bible
1 Corinthians 13:1-8a
There’s a nature kind of love, which is the most prevalent love that’s found in the world today. It’s a love that only loves lovely things or lovely people. It’s what keeps Hollywood in business. And it’s a love that’s quite logical when you think about it. It’s a love that’s going to only loves what is going to love back.
To this sort of love Jesus said,
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32 NKJV)
There’s another kind of love, however, that doesn’t look for value in what it loves, rather it creates value in what it loves. It’s a love that has no preconceived ideas and places no conditions on what it loves. It’s unconditional love.
It’s like Rosemary’s rag doll.
Rosemary was three years old when she was given a little rag doll. Soon it become her inseparable companion even though she had finer and more expensive dolls. But none of them were loved like this rag doll.
Over time, however, it became more rag than doll. More and more it became stained with wear, and it became more ragged with every cleaning. Now logic dictated trashing the doll, but that was unthinkable, because if you loved Rosemary, then you loved her rag doll too.
This is the love God desires for us to have towards others of the faith. The Apostle Paul said,
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20 NKJV)
It’s kind of like God is saying, “Love Me, love My rag dolls.”
We see this sort of love in Chris Krebs. His parents were counseled to have an abortion because Chris would be born with severe disabilities. But to Chris’s mom and dad this was not an option. So Chris was born physically and mentally handicapped.
But Chris was a loving little boy. His father would take him to hospital where his mother worked to pick her up. One day she was late, and so Chris’ father left him in the family waiting room. Another man was also there, one who was rough around the edges and didn’t smell too good.
When Chris’ father came back he saw Chris sitting next to the man who was now crying. Thinking that Chris had somehow offended the man, Chris’ father apologized. The man replied that Chris did the kindest thing anyone any one has ever done for him. He hugged him, something he hadn’t experienced in over 20 years.
Chris demonstrated this unconditional Christ like love we all need.
Today people desire revival or a renewal, not only for the church, but also for their lives. We all want and need some sort of renewal in our families, marriages, and even with God. But unfortunately what will bring that renewal, that which will have the greatest impact is our capacity to love God and love others. It’s the type of love that God has loved us with, and it’s the love Jesus said is the Greatest Commandment.
Jesus also talked about this as the love of God.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love … In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:8, 10-11 NKJV)
It says that God is love, which is one of the most profound and awesome statement ever made, and on of the most confusing in today’s world.
In our culture, which is found in our books, music, and films, love really hasn’t anything to do with it. Instead it’s become everything else except what God intended love to be. Love is not some emotional feeling, although emotions are a part of it, nor is love something you can fall in and out of, nor is love lust, which most today believes it is.
In our culture love is conditional and self-gratifying, which probably best explains the high divorce rate. Today’s love is all about, “What have you done for me lately.”
The most devastating thing our society has done is to take God out of the love equation. And because humanity has separated God from love, humanity is literally running rampant in its quest for love, and in the process destroying all that makes us human, that is, in the image and likeness of God.
You may think of it like this, if God is love, and we were made in the image and likeness of God, then we need to love what God loves, which is you and me, hence, “Love God, love His rag dolls.”
What God is calling us to become is conduits of His love to this lost and dying world, and when we do, then we’ll experience God’s love in our midst.
You might say this love of God is a love of a different kind. It’s a love that doesn’t look for value in what it loves. It doesn’t love someone because that someone is worthy of that love, or can add a certain value to our lives. No, it’s a love that creates value in others.
It’s a love that places no preconceived ideas or conditions on what it loves. It doesn’t just love those who will love it back. Rather it’s completely unconditional, that is, it places no conditions upon the other person to give or to receive their love. It’s a choice we make to love no matter how unlovable the other person may be.
The ultimate expression of this kind of love is God’s love for you and me.
Two verses that speak about this love are …
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Even though we were God’s enemy due to our sins, and even though we didn’t seek out God’s love or promise Him any love in return, He still sent His Son, Jesus, to die upon the cross so that we could be made right with Him and come into this loving relationship. That’s unconditional love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
This type of love is staggering, mainly because it is both illogical and irrational, that God would love those who hate Him so much that He would send His Son to die for us, so that we can be a part of His family.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1 NKJV)
This is a different kind of love, something that we’re simply not accustomed to. It’s real love, not the self-centered love that we’ve been taught and have grown up with. It’s a love that is willing to sacrifice its own desires for the good of others. And it’s this kind of love that Jesus models for us as He willingly went to the cross to die for us.
This is a real love, not a self-centered love. It’s a love that is willing to sacrifice its own desires of the good of others.
The Apostle Paul describes this different kind of love and it’s characteristics in what today is known as the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.
Though the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul describes this type of love for us in the midst of his explanation of spiritual gifts. He was counteracting the excessive emphasis the Corinthian Church was placing upon gifts as if these were the end all of our Christian experience and existence.
Paul is saying that without love as the motivating factor behind them, these gifts are nothing more than empty hollow acts. And so he says, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31b NKJV)
Basically he was saying that the way of love is better than any other way out there.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV)
Back in the 1st Century, there was a big gong or cymbal hanging at the entrance of most pagan temples. When people came to worship, they’d hit this gong, probably to wake up their gods to listen to their prayers.
Paul says that even if he could speak in every dialect known to man, and even in heaven’s dialect, if he didn’t have love, then his life would be as useless as the act of pounding on a gong to awaken non-existent gods.
Further, without this different kind of love, anything we say is nothing more than hollow reverberations.
Paul goes on to say that love is more important than knowledge, 1 Corinthians 13:2.
Even if you know all there is about science, medicine, history, geography, philosophy, psychology, and even religion, if you don’t have love, then you are nothing at all.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
And even though we have the faith to move mountains, Paul says, if there isn’t love attached to it, what good are we.
John and James had this faith and asked Jesus to rain down fire upon those in Samaria who rejected Him, but Jesus rebuked them for their lack of love saying,
“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:55b-56a NKJV)
In Galatians 5:6 Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Love is even more important than generosity. Paul was saying that we could give everything we own away, even sacrifice our lives to the cause, but if we don’t have love, then we really haven’t done anything.
All of these reminds me of those who will come to Jesus at the Judgment saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22 NKJV)
But Jesus said, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23 NKJV)
Next, Paul talks about the characteristics of love.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NKJV)
To see how well we stand up to these characteristics of love, let’s substitute our name for the word “Love.”
The perfect example of this love can be seen in Jesus. He would show love, compassion, and respect to sinners. He would also touch and heal those who were untouchable, like lepers. And He would show kindness to his enemies and those outside the Jewish faith. He even showed kindness to Judas Iscariot, knowing that he would betray him.
But not only did Jesus show us love by example; but He also taught about this unconditional love and its centrality to everything we do.
When asked by a Scribe which was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered by not giving just one, but two, and by so doing Jesus was saying that we cannot separate our love for God from our love for one another.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
It’s through loving others that we show our love for God.
The Apostle John taught this same truth saying,
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11 NKJV)
By our love, can people detect we’re Christians?
We can tell people all we want about God, but if we’re not also showing it in our lives, then our words ring hollow, that is, they’re nothing more than a clanging gong.
So God’s love, this love of a different kind, needs to be alive and well inside our hearts, so that it can be on open display to others.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study