The Love Chapter, Reviewing II

Title: The Love Chapter, Review II

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-5

Time: May 20th, 2007

Today we continue in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, written to the Christians in the Church of Corinth nearly two thousand years ago by the Apostle Paul. Why do we need to listen to this chapter when it gives us a definition of love? Because it was written under the inspiration of God so it isn’t corrupted by the foolishness of mankind, especially the foolish ways of the modern era in the 21st century. Today one-half of all marriages end in divorce because couples don’t know what love is all about — they think they do, but their understanding is so far off that when it comes to keeping a marriage together they can’t do it. Today, our culture’s definition of love is mostly selfish, it’s me-centered; it’s also mostly touchy-feely, about romantic emotions. In movies, popular songs, on television, in fiction novels, this false view of love is spread. But 1 Corinthians 13 gives us God’s definition of love, so we need to pay close attention to what it says in order to apply it to our lives. And that last part – applying it to our lives, is the tricky part. How do we actually start to live out what 1 Corinthians teaches us about love? It’s one thing to learn and know what love is, it’s different to live it out. How do we live it out? There is no easy answer. It takes learning about love, and then living it out little by little, while at the same time confessing our failures and encouraging our successes. But we’ve got to get the correct notion of love into our hearts and minds in order to have a standard upon which to measure ourselves, for better or for worse. We started the first Sunday of 2007 with the goal of being more loving people in the New Year; we started working through 1 Corinthians 13, verse 1. Now we are already into May. How are you doing at being a more loving person? Has this teaching influenced you, or are you still the same old person with the same old problems doing the same old things? I hope not. I hope that you are now thinking differently about what love is and that you are being challenged to change the things in your life that aren’t loving. We’ve learned about patience. Are you more patient? Am I? I hope so. We learned about kindness. Have you seen any improvement in that department? I hope so. We learned that love doesn’t envy, love doesn’t boast, love isn’t proud. Have you improved in these areas? We’ve learned that love isn’t rude; love isn’t selfish. Have you made any progress on these? We aren’t just trying to learn some new things; we are trying to live a new life. Love isn’t primarily knowledge, it’s primary a way of life. Are you living that life? There’s a song based on the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of John that goes: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Do people know you are a Christian by your love? That’s our challenge in 2007, that people might know we are Christians by our love. Today, I’d like to try to answer a number of key questions about love the Apostle Paul seems to be giving us from 1 Corinthians 13.

Question #1: What is love? We’ve already seen that our world, the society we live in, and the popular opinions of the people of our culture today define love as a warm-fuzzy feeling, a romantic attachment, a self-gratifying, ego-building relationship, and on and on. These are constant themes in movies, television, so-called “love songs,” novels and magazines. But according to the Bible, God’s Word, these things are not love. So what is love? As we’ve seen the Apostle Paul doesn’t give us a one-sentence definition, but uses many descriptions to communicate a definition of love. We’ve been studying them over the last five months. I was curious to find out what Webster’s Dictionary says about love. Would it state only the popular worldly definition, or would it actually give somewhat of the Bible’s understanding of love? Here’s Webster’s Dictionary definition of love: “1. a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” That’s kind of a worldly definition based on feeling or affection. “2. attraction based on sexual desire; affection and tenderness felt by lovers.” That’s really a worldly definition. “3. unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” Yea! They finally got it right, pretty close to what the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 says! I’m actually shocked to find a worldly source such as Webster’s Dictionary getting something like the definition of love correct. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s because of the Christian influence that such a definition is included. But it’s basically in line with what we’ve been hearing Paul describe. Here it is again: “Love is an unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” I guess that’s as pretty good one sentence definition of love that we are going to get from a worldly source. The Apostle Paul doesn’t ever give us a one-sentence definition of love, probably because he didn’t think it could be done; that’s why he used this whole chapter in trying to define love. What Paul seems to be saying is that love isn’t just one thing but many things — many caring characteristics. I like that last phrase in the Webster’s Dictionary definition: “Concern for the good of another.” That’s pretty much what summarizes what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 13. I’m patient with someone because I care about them. I’m kind to you because I care about you. I don’t envy someone because I care about them. I don’t boast about myself because I care about you. I don’t act proud because I care about the feelings of others. I’m not rude because I care for you. I’m not selfish because I care about others, not just myself. So what is love? In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul seems to be saying that love is a caring disposition towards others.

Question #2: What is marriage and family love? According to God’s Word as explained by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, we are supposed to love people. But if we are to love all people where does marital love fit in, where does family love fit? Isn’t it interesting that even though this particular passage from the Bible is read at more weddings than any other passage it not once mentions marital love in particular? In fact, it isn’t a passage that deals with marriage or family per se. It’s more of a general passage about love for all by all. There are passages in the Bible, and particularly in the writings of the Apostle Paul, that deal specifically with marriage and family, but this isn’t one of them. Then why do more weddings include this description of love than any other description of love in the Bible? Because what Paul teaches here about love can be applied specifically to marriages — and should be applied specifically to marriages. How would we apply these teachings specifically to marriages? Even though God’s Word is giving us a general and universal description of love here in 1 Corinthians 13, we can apply these truths specifically to the husband and wife marriage relationship by simply realizing that when two people get married they are supposed to love or “care for the good of one another” more than other people. A married couple is supposed to love one another to a higher degree than they are to love other people. In other words, just because two people get married doesn’t mean that they don’t have to worry about loving other people – they are still obligated generally to love others, but not in the same way and not to the same degree. When a couple is married they are supposed to now love one another more than any others. From Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 13, a married couple is to be more patient, more kind with each other than with others, because they are supposed to care more about each other than others. They are still supposed to care about others, but just not as much as each other because of their special marriage relationship. They shouldn’t envy one another, shouldn’t boast or be proud or rude or selfish with each other because they love each other — and they love each other more than they love others. That’s how marital love should be seen in light of the love chapter teaching. The same with love for children, family, and friends. We are supposed to love all people, but there are certain people who we should love more than others. We should be more patient with them, more kind with them, and so on. This is normal and natural. This shouldn’t be an excuse to not love other people; it should just be an acknowledgement that we are supposed to love our spouse and family even more. By the way, Jesus violated this rule in Matthew 12:46-50 when the people said to him, “Jesus, your mother and brothers are outside wanting to talk to you.” Jesus didn’t show any favoritism to his own mother and family for our sake, to show that God loves us all equally. But that isn’t a normal example of family love. We are allowed to love family more than we love others.

Question #3: Don’t feelings have anything to do with love? Yes, feelings have a role to play in love, but a minor role not a major role. Thank God feelings have only a minor role in real love and not a major role. Imagine Jesus hanging on the cross, suffering for humanity’s sin and cruelty. As God-in-the-flesh being crucified, do you think he felt good at that moment? Of course not. Yet he said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” That was an expression of love, but it wasn’t based on a feeling, it was based on a caring heart. The Father’s love is not based on feelings but on a caring disposition towards us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Do you think it “felt good” to sacrifice his son on the cross? Of course not! But it was out of his heart of compassion that he did it. The same with Jesus himself. Did it feel good to suffer and die on the cross? Of course not! But he did it out of a heart of compassion that went beyond mere feelings or emotion. It’s the same with us and our love for others. Love is more than a feeling. That’s why our culture today has it all wrong. It makes emotions and feelings the major part of love when it really should be the minor part. We have to be careful not to fall for the same trap. Look at the list of characteristics of love Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 13. How many of these characteristics are based on emotions or feelings? None. Love is patient whether it feels like it or not. Love is kind whether I feel like being kind. Love isn’t rude even though I may feel like being rude. That’s an important point. A lot of times love requires the very opposite of how I feel! If I’m basing love on how I feel or on my emotions, then I will often do the very opposite of love. Do you see why so many marriages end in divorce? If each person is trying to follow their feelings then they’ll actually at times be living the opposite of love. That’s not to say that there isn’t a legitimate emotional component to love. Paul doesn’t talk about it here in this description of love, but we know that Paul was capable of feeling great emotions of love towards others. For example, in Romans 9:1-3, Paul is so moved with love and compassion for his fellow Jews that he says that he would gladly be cut off from eternal life and perish in the fires of hell if it would save his people. That’s love, passion and emotional language. Jesus also expressed emotion and feeling in his love for people. So yes, the emotional or feeling part of love is important, but it is only the minor not the major part of love. Whenever people try to make the emotions and feelings the major part of love they run into trouble. Again, it’s why so many modern marriages fail. Love is deeper than feelings or emotions; it is a heart disposition of concern and care for another. The love that God wants us to have is based on a caring concern for others springing from our heart.

Let’s pray: “God, we pray that you give us loving hearts so that we might fulfill your calling for our lives to be loving people. Thank you for loving us while we were still sinners. Thank you for not loving us based on your emotions but based on your heart of compassion of care and concern for us. We know that as far as your emotions go, we all fell under your wrath and anger for our sins, but out of your compassion you forgave us and saved us from our sins. Help us to love others as you have loved us. Also, help us to love you the way we should love you. Forgive us when we fail to love you and others as we should. Help us to love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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