Jump Start # 2037
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
It’s Valentine’s Day—the day for hearts, candy and love. The love chapter of the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13. This section is read often in weddings and used to build relationships. In the proper setting, this is not about romance, husbands and wives or marriage. It’s placed within the context of jealousy, and division over spiritual gifts. As Paul teaches about the value and importance of spiritual gifts and even gives some practical guidelines about how to use these special gifts, he places this section about love in the midst. The love section sets the tone for the proper attitude and respect that they ought to have for one another.
Now, consider a few things about love.
First, the use of the word “charity” or “love,” is not a feeling, but a choice. It’s not about liking you but rather choosing to do what is right for you. The liking part comes later. Our culture is feeling based. We view love as what it does to us, not what we choose to do for another. This trickles over into a feeling based worship and faith being the same as feelings. They are not. One says, “I don’t get anything out of worship,” that that’s all that is needed for him to either quit or introduce radical changes that will stimulate feelings. The “God so loved the world,” passage isn’t feeling based but a choice. We are not cute puppies that are jumping up and down hoping that God will stop by and pick us up and take us home. We are not so adorable. We are sinners that have disappointed God, rebelled against His word and broken His heart. Without His mercy, He would have cast us all to where we belong. We are broken, dirty, confused and lost. We are a mess. We become decent, righteous, good when we follow Jesus.
To the pages of Corinthians, getting along with one another in a congregation is a choice. We can avoid people. We can talk negatively about others. We can exclude others. We can be uppity towards others. All of that leads to ill feelings, division and a real mess. Or, as Paul is guiding these folks, we can choose to be kind. We can choose to be patient. We can choose to be humble. We can choose to think the best. It’s a matter of a choice, our choice. We can get along.
Second, the nature of God is love. John wrote that “God is love.” The very characteristics that Paul defines with love, are the very characteristics of God. God is kind. God is patient. God is not arrogant. God seeks the best. So, building love within our hearts, molds us into the image of God. God isn’t prejudice. The world is. God doesn’t hate. The world does. God doesn’t play favorites. The world does.
Developing the Biblical qualities of love, not only shapes us into the image of God, but it pulls us farther from the world. We become less and less like the culture surrounding us. We see things that the world misses. We focus upon what the world ignores. We see value in things the world never notices. We give second chances, just like God does. The world won’t. We forgive, as God does. The world can’t. We believe in others, like God does. The world walks away from such.
If love is a choice, then we can choose to be more and more like God. It doesn’t happen naturally. It means making choices that are opposite of the culture we live in. We learn this love, not by watching TV, but by spending time with Jesus in the Gospels.
Third, Jesus demonstrated this love and lived this love. Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus with the adulterous woman. Jesus with Nicodemus. Jesus with Martha. Jesus with Peter. Jesus in the boat with the disciples in the midst of a storm. Jesus going with Jairus to rescue his dying daughter. Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. Layers and layers of lessons built upon and demonstrating Biblical love. Jesus cared. Jesus went. Love, as shown by Jesus, is action. It’s doing things for others. It’s being there. It’s making things right. It’s not hearts drawn on a piece of paper, it’s telling someone who is wrong what they need to do to be right. It’s not tolerance of wrong. It’s not looking the other way. It’s kindly showing the way of God. It’s standing where God stands. Love moves a person to do something.
This love is the gel that holds a congregation together and allows them to work together. This love is what accepts prodigals back home. This love motivates us to care for one another. This love drives us to be our best and to demand excellence from our selves. And, when this love is missing, things become lifeless, tense, demanding and hard. It’s hard to get the nerve up to attend services, when you worship with a group that doesn’t love. The preaching reflects that spirit. Everyone is wrong. Everything is wrong. A dark cloud prevails over the worship when love is missing. Things are said that shouldn’t be said. There is a spirit that is mean and condemning. Folks get into the judgmental mode. Finger pointing, talking about others and gloom and doom seem to prevail when love is missing.
Among the problems with the Corinthian church, and there were several, was a lack of love for one another. The problems that they had, would not have been as major nor as intense if they had love for one another.
Biblical love is not only the highest form of love, but it is also the hardest to manifest. It’s not easy to love the unloveable. It’s not easy to love one when they are not at their best. But it’s a choice we make, because God first loved us.
Many of us would do better if we put the radar guns down and held up mirrors to see how we are doing. We are more worried about others than we are ourselves. The spirit of love would help us to see that we not only need each other, but that we are all in this together. The enemy is not us, but the world that is trying to defeat us, and change us.
Love one another—simple words, but a tough command. It can be done and God expects us to do that.