Wednesday, July 3, 2013

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

(From April 13 & 14 sermon @ New Hope Community Church)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is patient
. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” If God had not been patient with us, there would have been no cross, for God recognized our absolute inability to love him and to love each other WITHOUT HIS HELP. When we lose patience with each other, we have to look at the cross and see how God waited for US - He allowed himself to be NAILED IN PLACE – so that we could find him! Let's wait for each other there with Him.

Love is kind. Kindness looks beyond self to the needs of others. God's kindness led Him to save us, because we could not save ourselves. He recognized our need. He stopped – he stooped. Is there someone who needs your kindness? Does it mean you need to stop for a minute? Or is it too inconvenient? We are the hands and feet of the Gospel – the BODY of Christ. If we do not extend kindness in this world, how will the people God so loves ever experience God's kindness as we have? If we do not extend kindness to our brothers and sisters (as the Corinthians were not), why would anyone OUTSIDE the church want to be a part of it?

Love does not envy. Envy is a big killer of love. Envy whispers that somebody is getting a bigger piece of the pie and it's not fair. But the truth is that our God serves us daily from his table, if we will gather there. The more we are filled with good things from his table, the less we will have an appetite for things that weren't served by his hand. We will be content to see him pass good things to our brothers and sisters, happy to be in their company, delighted just to be at the table. God's riches are never diminished by his generosity! (Teresa of Avila, loosely quoted.)

Love does not boast. Some of the Corinthians were boasting about their spiritual gifts. When we boast we are looking for people to compare us to others and find us BETTER than others. It's not about being happy about being really good at something – that is just delighting in the way God made you. It is about BEING BETTER THAN. A person who wants to be better than others is not a person who is considering actually loving them. People become the backdrop for a stage built for one, and that one is NOT God.

Love is not proud. The Corinthians were fighting with each other, pushing each other out of the communion line, lining up behind this teacher or that one, suing each other, etc.... They even refused to submit to Paul's leadership as an Apostle. Pride would rather break fellowship or start a riot than lay down her rights for the sake of love. A wonderful antidote to pride is THANKFULNESS. How can we remain proud if we remember how far God had to go in order to rescue us – and why!?

Love does not dishonor others. Mother Teresa said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.”
The Corinthians were practicing favoritism based on wealth and on which teacher people were considering themselves followers of. Have you ever experienced rejection – ever not been greeted by a brother or sister because of which political party you belong to, which local church you attend or what you believe about certain peripheral doctrines? Don't you wish brothers and sisters would see us through God's eyes and extend love and even forgiveness when it's called for? Let us trust that our brothers and sisters in this church and in each local church are trying their best, just as we are. Let's trust Jesus with people and love and greet them with a smile BECAUSE HE LOVES THEM and has a calling on their lives.

Love is not self-seeking. We tend to view love as an exchange, “If you love me, I will love you.” It's easier to travel with those who love, accept and appreciate us, our “safe” people. Self-preservation is evidenced by the herd-instinct. This was happening in Corinth, and they were trampling each other!
But Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 46-48

Love is not easily angered. We should be angry about injustice and oppression, and allow our anger to be a catalyst for healthy action. But here Paul was referring to the kind of anger that arises when we are not getting our own way, the anger that's evidenced at a game when the players or the fans curse or riot because their team lost. Earlier in 1 Corinthians Paul said (paraphrased), “Wouldn't you just rather let it go than take a grievance with a brother or sister to a pagan court?” If we truly believe God is FOR us, we can actually give up our right to be right and let God take care of outcomes! It's a much less stressful way of living. We are family in Christ. If a brother or sister wrongs us, we need to keep that in mind – and trust our Father to help them make it right OR help us see OUR fault and make amends.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. If words could be weighed, then “unforgiveness” would weigh heaviest, for it demands to be carried and grows heavier with each passing year. “Love” is the lightest word – light, indeed, because Love carries us.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I found a great illustration of this in Joshua chapter 22: The Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had done what Moses commanded by helping their fellow Israelites conquer Canaan. Joshua told them they could return to the homes Moses gave them on the other side of the Jordan. When they came to the banks of the Jordan, before they crossed over, they built an altar. When the Israelites heard about it, they immediately gathered against them. 
But first, the Israelites sent a delegation to Reuben & Co. to ask: ‘How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him?
Reuben & Co. replied: “We have not turned from our LORD. We built this altar in HONOR of our God and yours.”
When the delegation returned to Canaan and reported to the Israelites, they were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war.
The Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: Witness Between Us—that the LORD is God.
The Israelites concluded, on hearing reports of the altar , that their brothers were sinning. But the Israelites CHECKED OUT the story before they set out for war! They weren't looking for an excuse to go to war. They were so thankful that they didn't have to!
That altar by the Jordan reminds me of the Cross. When we are in danger of judging brothers and sisters, we need to meet them at the cross and get God's perspective on the situation. The Cross stands as a witness between us that the Lord is OUR God.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always
perseveres. Henri Nouwen wrote, “When God looks at our world, God weeps because the lust for power has entrapped and corrupted the human spirit. Instead of gratitude, there is resentment; instead of praise there is criticism; instead of forgiveness there is revenge; instead of healing there is wounding; instead of compassion there is competition; instead of cooperation there is violence; instead of love there is fear.”
How can we let love dictate our response to people – especially within the family of God - rather than fear that we might not get love back? Or that they might get a bigger piece of the pie than us? It seems like our only option is a miracle, and I thank God that he has provided one: Jesus. Jesus did not worry about whether we would or would not accept, appreciate, like or love Him. He knew we NEEDED a word of hope, of love, and of life – and he spoke it. He WAS it. He saved us. Not based on anything we deserved – but because of His love.
Every day my heart bleeds out. I lack love when I most need it. Every day I must go back to the Father for a transfusion – for the love of Christ to flow through my veins. Like manna, I can gather enough – there is always enough – for THIS day, THAT person. The bread of life from his table. The BREAD of LIFE. Not to hoard, but to hold out. An acceptable offering.
Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Beverly - 2013