Love Defined

March 15, 2015    I Corinthians 13   Love Defined   


     The first 3 verses of this chapter focus on how empty a person is without love and vain life is without love.  Now the HS takes us into the most descriptive passage in the scriptures on love.  It is like Paul shines a light through a glass or diamond and shows us 15 qualities or characteristics of love.  Each aspect shows us how agape love operates.  Most of these qualities show us what love is not like.  Agape love is very active and is not stagnant.   Agape love moves and has character and substance.  Love is fully love when it acts.  I John 3:18 dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  Love is active like faith.   James said if we see a brother of sister without food and without clothes and do not help them and say to them be warmed and filled but don’t help them what good is it.  Paul seeks to break love down into smaller more concrete parts so that we can see and understand the concept better and so that we can apply it to our lives.  Paul speaks into the Christians life in these verses.   Paul also paints a picture of the beauty of love in this section and Jesus is the picture.   This is a picture of Jesus and it is a beautiful picture indeed. 

            The first thing that Paul says is that love is patient or longsuffering.     Love’s patience is the ability to be used or inconvenienced by others over and over again and not get angry or upset about it.  Chrysostom an early church father said it is a word that is used of a man who is wronged and who easily has it in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.   Patience does not retaliate.  Patience does not seek to get even or to repay evil to another person.  Patience blesses others even when they do not deserve the blessing.  It is so neat that we can be like our father in heaven and be patient to others and loving to others.   We can be like Jesus.   Some people consider vengeance a virtue.   Many would consider it a good deed to retaliate and pay back.   In the Greek world Aristotle taught that the great Greek virtue was refusal to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense.  Vengeance was a virtue to them.   It is far better to be patient.   Many people have done stupid things in anger and regretted it.   Many people in jail because things got out of hand.  In arguments when the heat rises and anger rises and the light diminish it is time to withdraw.     God is patient with us and that should encourage us to be patient with our kids and our spouse and others.        

      Robert Ingersoll the well-known atheist of years ago would often stop in the middle of lectures against God and say I’ll give God 5 minutes to strike me dead for the things I have said.   He then would use the fact that he was not struck dead as proof that God did not exist.  Theodore Parker said of Ingersoll's claim and did that gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in 5 minutes?   

    Love is also kind.   One of the verses that I really like is in Proverbs and it says that kindness makes a man attractive.  Jesus was kind and is kind and He is attractive.  Kindness is more pro active than patience.   Patience puts with others while kindness is giving.   Kindness is serving and giving and it is active good will.  When you show kindness or receive kindness something is typically done.   It is typically expressed in an action.  In kindness the shirt or coat is given.   Kindness gives that meal.  Kindness goes that second mile.  Can you imagine a Christian going the second mile? 

    The Roman soldiers could ask anyone to carry their gear for one mile and the Jews hated the Roman soldiers.  So one day Joe average Jewish Christian is asked to carry the gear for a mile and ole Joe says gee I would be glad to and may I carry it another mile.  Now the Roman thinks what is up with this guy?   Joe says I love Jesus and I am glad to serve you.  If that happens a few times to someone what do you think that he begins to understand?   He begins to wonder about this Jesus.  What kind of a person is this Jesus who is so different?    I was angry with myself this week.  I brought a wrench back to Sam’s Club that they left when I had a new battery put in.   They guy said I would have kept it.  I should have said I love Jesus and I must return it.   

     God is the supreme model of kindness also.  In Titus we read that at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.   We lived in malice, envy, and hatred and hating one another.   But when the kindness and love of God our savior appeared, He saved us not because of the righteous things that we had done but because of His mercy.   The kindness and love of God opened up our heart.  .  Jesus told His disciples that His yoke was easy and His burden was light.   His yoke is easy is similar to the word used here in this passage the word kind.   His yoke is kind or manageable or mild.   His yoke is easier than the yoke of the world and easier than the yoke of Satan.  His pathways are kind as we walk in submission to Him.  The supreme test of kindness is in the home I think.  It is showing kindness to one another in the home.  It is husbands showing kindness to his wife and the wife showing kindness to her husband.  It is children showing kindness to each other and to the parents.  And this kindness is to the point of self-sacrifice.  The Corinthians needed to give up their selfishness and adopt an attitude of giving in kindness to others.  This would make a big difference in how the spiritual gifts were used in the church. 

            Paul said love is patient and love is kind and now he starts saying what love is not.   The first one word used is love does not envy or is not zealous.   There are many examples of envy in the bible and this is the first negative description of love.   Love does not envy.   Many people find this a battlefield and a struggle and many people fail with this.    When someone is popular or gifted or talented or things come easy to them.   The person who loves is glad for them and is neither full of envy nor zealous of them.  When other churches are growing we rejoice with them.  When another Christian is doing well we rejoice with those that are rejoicing and we weep with those that weep.

     Envy or jealousy is a strong emotion.   Eve wanted to know like God.  There was something out there that she did not have and she wanted it.   She was tempted and she failed the temptation.  Cain killed his brother Abel because of jealousy.  The prodigal son’s brother would not join in the party because of envy or jealousy.  Jesus was delivered up to die because of envy.   Matt 27:18 for Pilate knew it was out of envy that they handed Jesus over to him.  James 3:16 for where there is envy and selfish ambition there you will find disorder and every evil practice.  It is a tool of the enemy Satan.  Simon in Acts 8 saw that the HS was given when the disciples put their hands on others and he offered Peter money so that he could have the same power.   Peter told him may your money perish with you because you cannot buy the gift of God.  Money can’t buy everything and in some ways money can buy very little.   It cannot buy joy and love.  Shakespeare called envy the green sickness.  Bacon admitted it has no holidays.  Horace declared that tyrants never invented a greater torment.   Barrie said it was the most corroding of the vices.  Sheridan referred to it in his play The Critic when he wrote there is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as this.  Philip Bailey an English poet described it as a coat that comes hissing hot from hell.   Dante in his purgatory wrote the envious sit blind beggars by a wall, their eyelids sewn shut.   Envy is a blind sin. 

            Jealousy or envy has 2 forms.    One form of it says I want my stuff to be better than yours.     I want a nicer house than you have.     It says you have a nice car and I want a better car then you have.  Another form says I am going to take your nice stuff.     That is uglier because the desire is to harm others and it is to wish others ill.  There is the example in the scripture of Daniel who was thrown in the lion’s den because of jealousy.    Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery because of envy and jealousy.   In contrast to negative examples in the scripture there was the love between David and Jonathan.  Jonathan was to inherit the throne but David was more popular.  David was a greater warrior and more popular than Jonathan but we do not see anything but love from Jonathan towards David.   As we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit we can be kind, patient, and not envy others for what they are or what they have.  A life filled with envy is not thankful. 

      Then Paul states that love does not boast, it is not proud and it is not rude.           Love does not boast nor does it brag.   When a loving person is successful he or she does not boast about it or brag about it.  They are not conceited about it.   Love does not parade its achievements. John McArthur wrote.  Bragging is the other side of jealousy.    Jealousy wants what others have and bragging is trying to make others want what you have.  Bragging is trying to build up the person who brags.   Bragging turns off most people and most people do not like to hear others brag but people are inclined to do it.  We all want a certain reputation and so we get caught up in lifting up ourselves.  We desire to be noticed and appreciated for what we do and sometimes that turns into bragging about ourselves.   It can be painful when God deals with those areas of our life.   I know a pastor who had a great deal of pride in 55 years of preaching and ministry.   I need to be careful l about that also.  Forty years ago I started leading soldiers to Jesus.  I also think wow what little you have done for Jesus.  Thinking about those things is a waste of time.   I should be thankful Lord you have kept me and at times used my life bless your name. 

    There are several things in this letter that would indicate that the Corinthians had pride issues.   Their glory was not in the cross.  The Corinthians had issues in the area of spiritual gifts.   The wanted to be the center and they wanted attention and that can cause issues with harmony in the church.    They were self-centered.  Charles Trumbull once said God if you will give me the strength every time I have the opportunity to introduce the topic of conversation it will always be Jesus Christ.   Paul said God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s glory was the cross not in his ministry and not in his gifts and abilities but in the cross of Jesus.   The disciples came back to Jesus after Jesus had sent them out and they were all excited that even the demons were subject unto them and Jesus told them to rather rejoice that their names were written in heaven.  We would be wise to always rejoice in Jesus and in the cross. 

            C.S Lewis called bragging the utmost evil.  At the root of bragging is pride and bragging puts our self-first.   In Philippians 2 Jesus put us first and Paul writes that we should esteem others better than our self.   Often instead we compare ourselves with others and come up better or we become jealous because we feel inferior.   Paul writes that we are not wise when we compare ourselves with others.   Jesus is the standard we should compare ourselves to him and he is perfect.   He is the meek and lowly and He put others before Himself though He was above all.  Jesus had everything to boast about but He did not boast at all.  What did Jesus glory in? 

     It is the love of Jesus that saves us from flaunting ourselves. I am humbled when I look and think about the cross.    Some think that they are better than others spiritually.   Some Christians have a problem getting along with others and at the root of it is pride.   When we esteem others better than our self we are on the road to getting along.  When we seek to lift others and bless others and not have our own way we are on the road to healing relationships.  Romans 12 is the first list of spiritual gifts in the bible and the HS says in that passage through Paul for by the grace given me I say to every one of you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you.

     Love is not arrogant.   In I Corinthians 4 for who makes you different than anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?   And if you did not receive it why do you boast as though you did not?  Everything we have is from God and therefore we have nothing to be arrogant about.  Everything we have is a gift from God.   Everything good thing that the Corinthians had came from the Lord and they became arrogant about those things.  They were puffed up about knowledge and spiritual gifts and that is not the way of love.  It is not the way of humility. 

      John the Baptist had a great ministry and soon Jesus ministry began to grow greater than John’s.   John’s disciples came to him one day and told John the Baptist that everybody was going over to Jesus and John said a man can receive only what is given to him from heaven and in verse 30 he said He must increase and I must decrease.  Proverbs 16:18 pride goes before destruction and haughty spirit before a fall.  Only by pride comes contention.  Love gives and love is interested in the other person.  Without love it means nothing.