Friday, February 7, 2020

Love - 1 Corinthians 13

According to 1 Corinthians 13, the real test of spirituality is not experience. It is love. That, of course, raises the question: What is love? That question leads us to the middle portion of 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Over the years I have asked a lot of young couples why they want to get married. Almost always their answer is because they are in love. If I ask them how they know they are in love they usually have answers like, “I can’t stop thinking about her” or, “I am only happy when I am with him.” But if 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a definition of love then they don’t even know what love is. I’m sure I didn’t.

My first “I love you” to my wife had very little to do with anything listed in the verses above. That kind of love is often foreign to us. That is the kind of love that the Spirit of God produces in us. Like fruit, it grows as we learn to trust and yield to him. Galatians 5:22 calls it the fruit of the Spirit. As we grow older we increasingly learn how selfish we really are.

Young couples may not know what love is, but it is biblical love that we call them to. It is biblical love that is reflected in the marriage vows: “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” That is Christ’s kind of love and that is the promise we make when we enter into marriage. It is what God calls us to in the church as well.

Am I patient and kind with everyone at church? Even the irritating ones? Do I envy their achievements, experiences, or stuff, or do I boast about mine in order to feel better about myself? Do I insist on doing things my way because I can see so clearly that I am right? Am I irritable or resentful of someone in church because of something they said or did that hurt me, made me feel disrespected, or disrespected someone I love? Do I rejoice in seeing someone else get the discipline they deserve?

I recall watching a television series with my grandchildren. Throughout the series there was a character that was not a nice person. He was mean, selfish, and dishonest. As we were watching, the bad man was suddenly killed and my four grandchildren cheered. I understand the cheer. They were caught up in the show and the bad guy got taken out. But it made me wonder. . .  Is that really how we are supposed to respond when someone gets what they deserve? Shouldn’t our hearts be grieved that their lives were wasted and came to such a devastating end? Do I rejoice in seeing someone else get the discipline they deserve?

Have I embraced the World’s system of values that calls good evil and evil good or do I rejoice in truth? Do I put up with everything without losing faith and hope? Am I willing to endure anything for the good of others and for the glory of God? The man writing this knew what he was talking about. The Apostle Paul had gone from a celebrated young academic to being hunted, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and lashed for his faith in Christ and his love for others. What if that kind of love permeated our churches? How different would they look?

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