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A Lifestyle of Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-8a
** Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvrwTw2VPk8
As we are continuing in our ongoing series on Faith, Hope, and Love, today I want to continue on the topic of love.
Love is not just a word we use in a sentence; rather it is a lifestyle choice that we must make, or rather it’s a way of life that all believers in Jesus Christ must adhere to.
Today I’d like to look with you at this topic of love from what many have called the Bible’s love chapter, or 1 Corinthians 13.
“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. 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 13:1-8a)
Basically, the Lord is saying is that without love nothing else matters. He says that it is through our love for others that we show the world just how much we know and love God. Loving God and loving others should then be our number one priority, as it’s proclaimed by Jesus in the Great Commandment.
Love is the greatest of all the qualities we as Christians are to possess, and this is the way the Apostle Paul ends this chapter on love.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV)
But what is love? This is the question that seems to dominate the airways, and that’s because the word “love” has been misunderstood and way over used. We use the word love for just about everything and anything.
• We talk about our love for food. “I love BBQ, anything and everything BBQ I love.” But is that the type of love God is talking about?
• We talk about loving our favorite sport or sports team. “Love them Yankees,” or “Love them Lakers.” “I love watching” (Now pick your favorite sport). Or we talk about loving an activity like hiking, hunting, camping, or fishing. But I doubt that this is what God had in mind.
• Or we talk about loving our possessions, like our cars, home, that new dress, or that old pair of jeans. But once again, this is not the type of love that God had in mind.
Basically, we use this term “love” in referring to how we feel about a lot of things.
But besides being misunderstood, the word love has also been misinterpreted. Many today are using the word love in place of the word lust. Men and women say to one another, “I love you,” when in reality what they are saying, “I lust after you.” And in our society of promiscuity and sexual immorality this is more the norm than the exception.
But besides the word being misunderstood and misinterpreted, there’s also a serious misconception about what it means as well.
People today equate love to a feeling. This is seen in a very popular song by the Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
Other people talk about falling in love, like somebody tripped them, or it’s like falling into a ditch, but unfortunately, people also say that have just as easily fallen out of love. Talk about being fickle.
Love for many is an ocean of emotions. (Now, that’s something that should go on a Hallmark card.) And yet, while love does create feelings, love itself is not a feeling. Instead, love is a choice. We must choose to love, otherwise we’ll be known as hypocrites, because today we can be in love, and tomorrow out of love, if love is strictly an emotion.
Now, love being a choice is how the Apostle Paul defines it.
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3:14 NKJV)
What does it mean to “put on?”
In his letter to both the church in Rome and in Galatia, the Apostle Paul also used this same terminology saying that we are to “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27).
What this means is that the same choice we made to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, is the same choice we make to love.
To put on Christ, and to put on love, is like getting dressed. It means to clothe oneself in. We have a choice every morning as to what we’re going to wear, or whether or not we’re going to get dressed for work, or stay home in our pajamas.
And so love is a choice. We have the choice to put on the attitude of love every day.
When I was proposing to Michaela, it was at the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. I was on the outside ring, and as the inside ring where she was sitting slowly turned, I was soon finding myself moving away from her and to the next table. Talk about being in an awkward situation. Now, I’m sure she was mulling over the choice. But, the people at the next table were starting to get nervous.
The Bible also talks about love being more that merely words we speak, it’s also communicated through our actions.
The Apostle John said, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NKJV)
Love isn’t something we just talk about, it’s more than merely a feeling, it’s more than just a thought we may have. Love is something we put into action every single day. And so, not only do we choose to love, but then we put that live into action. Love is then more than a lifestyle; love is actually a way of life.
Now, the Bible speaks about our need to “love one another.” In fact, it’s this love that defines us as Christians and demonstrates our love for God. This is seen in the Great Commandment that we referred to earlier.
When Jesus was asked which commandment was greatest, He quoted two. The first is our love for God.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NKJV)
But then Jesus gave us a second commandment that He said was like unto the first saying,
“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39 NKJV)
By saying that the second is “like” the first, Jesus is saying that the way we show our love for God is by loving one another.
This is the very heart of what love is all about. And so love is an action. We are to show God our love for Him through loving others with that exact same love we say we love God with.
Today, I’d like to give some practical ways we can show this love, work it out, so to say, in our daily lives. It’s how we make our lives a lifestyle of love, where love becomes a way of life.
1. Love Unconditionally
One of the first things I explain in the wedding vows is our need to love, but there are a lot of different definitions surrounding this word love. In the Greek language there are four distinct words for love.
• “Eros” – which means sexual passion, it’s where we get our English word, erotica.
• “Storge” – which basically means affection. It’s the type of love we display towards family members.
• “Philia” – means to be friendly towards. It’s from this Greek word that the city of Philadelphia is named, that is, the city of brotherly love.
• “Agape” – which means unconditional. It is the word used in our love for God and His love for us, and it is this sort of love that Jesus used in giving us the Great Commandment.
It is this last word for love, “Agape,” that I talk about in the wedding vows, and what it means is that we are placing no conditions upon the other person to give or to receive love.
Now we see this word used in other ways, that is, practical ways as brought out by the Apostle Paul.
“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7 NKJV)
Just as Jesus has loved us and has received us with all our faults, problems and junk, we are to receive, accept, and love others the same way, even those who irritate us, and rub us the wrong way. These people may best be described as God’s heavenly sandpaper. You see, God places them in our lives to smooth us out.
But to love someone unconditionally, is to receive and accept them as Jesus Christ received and accepted us, and this isn’t easy, in fact it’s hard, if nigh onto impossible.
And that’s because in our own power we’re not able to, but we can in and through the power of God. The Apostle Paul said that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
We need Christ’s strength to love people unconditionally.
Further, we need to understand that we’re never going to see eye to eye with anyone, and to love unconditionally doesn’t mean that we have to, but what it does mean is that while we may not agree, we can still love them.
The Apostle Paul also gives us another way to practically love someone unconditionally.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Romans 12:10 NKJV)
The word here for “kindly affectionate” comes from the Greek word, “Philia.” But how this relates to unconditional love is our need to give preference to one another.
It means to be committed to each other without any conditions attached. For any relationship to work there needs to be an unconditional love and commitment.
There’s a travesty that I’ve seen as a pastor, and that is where people commit to either a church or to a marriage, but when something happens in this relationship; instead of being committed to the process of healing, they leave without so much as a thank you or a goodbye, and they tend to leave with a scorched earth policy.
What do I mean by a scorched earth policy. They leave talking bad about their spouse, or members within the church, all the while talking themselves up in the process.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord we become a part, a member, of His body, the church. This is important to understand because unconditional love means committing ourselves to others, being kindly affectionate, completely devoted, to one another in love.
And so if we truly love one another with this unconditional love we proclaim, then we belong to each other.
Now, taking this verse in Romans 12:10 we see another practical way by which we can love one another.
2. Honor Others
This idea of honoring others, especially those in whom we love, is another word I use in the marriage vows.
To honor is to hold the other person in high esteem. First, is because they are one of God’s creations, made in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself. But also because they provide what we’re lacking, hence the idea of many members one body. Can the hand say to the foot, I have no need of you? Just as the hand needs the foot, the foot needs the hand.
The Bible says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)
But this word honor also carries with it another idea, and that is to honor someone is to help them become everything that God has created for them to be. It’s the simple idea of encouragement.
Knowing that Jesus can return for His church at any time, Paul gives us this instruction.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)
Let me just say that a pat on the back, a “Way to go,” goes a long way, because everyone needs encouragement. In a world that is tearing us down, we need help building each other up, to encourage one another in the Lord.
One way that we do this is to use our gifts and talents in serving each other.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10 NKJV)
The gifts that God has given to us are not just for ourselves to enjoy or to use upon our own pleasure, but they are to be used for each other, and God does that so that we can learn to depend upon each other so that we can build each other up and grow in our love relationships with one another.
And so we are to serve one another out of joy, not obligation. And this is something that I have seen in our church. I’ve seen just how willing we are to serve others and to use our gifts and talents to help others.
The Bible says, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NKJV)
And so it’s to our benefit to honor one another.
3. Forgive Freely
True love, unconditional love, freely forgives other people’s offenses.
What exactly then is forgiveness? Over the years I have given this definition in my messages, writings, and counseling sessions. The reason I repeat it is because people tend to forget it, especially when dealing with the hurts that come with life.
To forgive someone means, “To no longer remember that offense against that person who hurt you.”
Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting, because it’s impossible to forget. Instead, forgiveness like love is a choice. We choose to no longer remember the offense against the person who hurt us.
The Apostle Paul tells us to “put on” several qualities, which again means that this is a choice. He said that we need to put on tender mercies (love in action), kindness, humility, meekness and longsuffering.
And then he said, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:13 NKJV)
And then in the very next verse he said that we’re to put on love. So forgiveness is a choice just like love.
In fact, forgiving others is so important that if we fail to forgive others, then God will not forgive our sins against Him.
Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15 NKJV)
If we want our sins forgiven by the Lord, then we to forgive others their sins against us.
Those people, however, who find it hard to forgive, are those who are holding resentment and bitterness in their hearts. And as a result they really can’t fully love.
So forgiveness is the third practical way that we can love one another and make love a way of life.
Let me end this message on love saying that the most loving thing any of us can ever do is to tell others about God’s love for them through what Jesus Christ did for us upon the cross. That is the most loving thing that any of us could ever do.
Our love for Jesus Christ should compel us to this very goal.
And so, who are we reaching out to, not only with the love of Jesus Christ, but also the message of His love? We need to reach out with God’s love to our family and friends, and in the process be invitational. Let’s start inviting them to church to hear God’s life changing message for their lives.
In the end this is my prayer for our church, that we will be a church that loves others so much that we’ll do whatever it takes to see them come into that saving loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let’s therefore be a people who love unconditionally, who honors others, and who freely forgives, being that living loving example of God’s love for them, and sharing this love with everyone.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study