Let us pray: Dear Savior, in living, breathing, showing and acting out Love you have given us a blessed example to follow in this life. But what is even more, Your love covers over all our unloving thoughts, words, and actions. For this we thank You. And we also ask You to foster Your love among us on a daily basis. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO LOVES EACH OF YOU!
Text: 1 Cor. 12:27-13:13
Dearly Beloved in God’s Love Made Flesh:
Most Christians well know the contents of 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. Perhaps you had it read at your wedding. Perhaps you used it at a family anniversary during which you spoke. It is beautiful, universally applauded, and even the non-believers enjoy hearing it. Too bad it’s usually taken out of context and the profound meaning of it is overlooked. Today we’ll seek to remedy that situation as we consider:
LOVE: THE FOUNDATION OF AN ACTIVE FAITH
The first thing you need to know is that while in English “love” is one word with various shades of meaning, depending upon context, in the Greek language of the NT “love” has three words—each of which provide a distinct definition. “Eros” means erotic, sexual love.—The lowest level in the Greek language. “Fileo” means friendship love, kind of a medium level of love. “Agape” is the highest level of love. It means: unconditional, no-strings attached love. It should come as no surprise that agape love is used here throughout 1 Corinthians 13.
The second thing you need to focus upon is that all this talk about love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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 never fails…now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”—The thing about these words is that ultimately they don’t describe human love but Divine love. They describe God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. St. John says the same thing in his first epistle when he writes: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
So there you have it! St. Paul isn’t talking here strictly of human love for others or for God. No, He’s directly addressing the foundational truth of our faith: God loves us unconditionally in Jesus Christ! God’s love has moved Him to pay for our non-love in Jesus Christ. And armed with God’s love, or grace, we can and should go forth and show it in all we do!
Obviously, love is the foundation for the Christian faith, especially for an active faith—the only kind there really is. Again, St. John says this: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence in the day of judgment…We love because he first loved us…Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Now take those words to heart and listen anew to St. Paul’s opening words: “Now n you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.”—After which he proceeds to lay out the profound principles of agape love.
What does this mean for you here today? It means that if you have God’s love in Christ—and you do through faith—you have it all! No one needs to be jealous of another for their spiritual gifts. No one needs to envy another because they are better at explaining Scripture than they are. No one needs to be grumpy because someone else is better at singing, or leading the youth group, or comforting the sick and hurting than they are. No, the point is: we’re all in this business of life under Christ’s love—together. Each of you has special talents, given by God, which He expects you to use in order to build up the whole body of Christ! And such an active faith is only possible through the use and ongoing daily application of God’s love in your life.
Last week I preached on how we all belong to Christ and are an integral part of His body. And now you know why each component part is equally important to the whole—each possesses God’s love for us in Christ! Obviously, how we apply that love individually will differ—Good! It better. Otherwise we’d all be feet or fingers with no heart. So, the question now turns to this: what are you doing with your gift or talent of Godly love? Are you using it only when you feel like it? Are you employing it only among those who can reciprocate and give you something in return? Are you fearfully hiding it under a bushel basket because you’re afraid of losing it? Are you living up to your full potential when it comes to an active faith?
Isn’t it interesting that St. Paul concludes with the words: “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”? Why does he do so? Simply because God’s love for us in Christ is the foundation for faith and hope. Without Godly love poured out upon us faith is a cruel joke and hope is a fairy tale.
However, armed with God’s love we can and will conquer all—because He has already done so for us—in love….So, next time you see someone with a need, any need, show your love which is actually His love. Be “wise like a serpent, yet gentle like a dove.” The results of putting aside your fear and your ego will be nothing short of amazing!….Amen