Like or Love?

How would you define love?
There was a movie made by Disney over 14 years ago, with a song called: How does she know that you love her.
How does someone show love?
I realize that I am late to the ball game for this sermon.
Every September or October, I set aside a week to prepare my preaching calendar for the next year. Unfortunately, I could not tweak it to allow 1 Corinthians 13 to land on Valentine’s Day.
But, I am glad that it didn’t happen.
Many people will refer to 1 Corinthians 13 as the love chapter. Some people will have portions of it read at their wedding or their vow renewals. Which is great. But, there is so much more happening in this chapter than is applicable to a marriage.
Paul was writing to a church that was known by its division. In fact, they were using the things of God, the gifts of the Spirit, to create division.
To the Church of Jesus Christ, Paul writes 1 Corinthians 13, to teach the church how they are to relate to each other.
Is it applicable for marriages? Totally. Is it focused on a broader subject. Yes.
Whenever a Christian plans to interact with another Christian, we should take this passage to heart.
Today, we are just going to focus on the first three verses, but let’s read the whole thing.
1 Corinthians 13:1–13 NIV
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 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 never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Today, we will see that love should be the basis of everything a Christian does.
Consistently, throughout the Bible, we a contrast between what the world tells us and what God tells us. Unfortunately, too often we follow the lie of the world, rather than the truth of God.
Let’s look at the lie.

1. The World’s Perspective

Every day, we are bombarded by messages from the world. We are influenced to view the things of God and the gifts of God a certain way, in addition to all the other things the World tries to influence us in.
The world tells us

A. Flashy Gifts are beautiful

Paul writes
1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
The world says: If you have something that can be shown off, then show it off! Go for the glitz, go for the glamour, go for what wows people.
Several weeks ago, I spoke about the fickleness of people who followed Jesus. He had crowds following him because of the miracles of healing that he performed. Then, they found out that he could create food out of nothing. He had even more people following him.
Then, he stood up in the middle of his disciples and said:
John 6:51 NIV
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
People started grumbling and complaining.
Then Jesus continued:
John 6:61 NIV
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?
John 6:65–66 NIV
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
The world wants flash and glamour. They say pursue those things because they make us desirable.
The world tells us

B. Exhortation Brings Identity

1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
There are many people who get an ego boost when they are able to tell someone some deep truth and convince that person of how they are right.
Unfortunately, there are many pastors, elders, Sunday school teachers, who have that position because they want that ego boost.
The world says: if you can share something, speak the word of God in a certain way, that is your identity.
There was a young upshot preacher from Seattle Washington named Mark Driscoll. He was pretty smart and could preach a good sermon. He started using the internet to stream his sermons before people realized that could be done.
He started traveling the world preaching, became really famous. One of his assistants noticed that he was being greeted like a rock star, and said, jokingly, “Wow, who are all these people here for?”
And, Mark turned to him, and said: “I don’t know if you have noticed, but I’m a pretty big deal.” Completely serious.
The world says that what we say, what we can do, is our identity.

C. Spirituality brings identity

But, not just exhortation, but spirituality.
1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
There are some people who have an amazing faith in God, who believe that God can do amazing things.
Like Jesus referred to.
Matthew 17:20–21 NIV
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
This isn’t just speaking of physical mountains, but mountains in our lives, of things that we think are impossible or insurmountable.
We look up to these people, and think that they are so amazing. “Oh, so-and-so, is such a person of faith! I wish I were her!”
Even people in the secular world, look up to people who are spiritual and have a faith in God (even if that God is not really ours).
They say: That faith makes you something. That is your identity that you have faith in something and can handle such hardship.

D. Charity provides what’s needed

The world says: Charity provides what’s needed.
1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We are selfish people. Most people give to charities and organizations because of what it does. Even if it is the happiness we get from writing the check.
What is the phrase: cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you. Or as the NIV translates it:
Ecclesiastes 11:1 NIV
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.
There are many people who say: give to charity because God will bless you. Your cup will overflow. Send in your seed money and see God pour riches upon you.
The non-Christian world will talk about Karma. Do good things so that good things will come to you.
If you need something, pay it forward. It will come back around.
The world says:

E. Martyrdom provides what’s needed

1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Well, the world doesn’t always say this. But, there are some religions, and some teachings with certain churches, that say someone receives more blessing if they go through a hard time for their God.
The Muslims believe that if they are killed in a holy war, then they are immediately transported to heaven and are surrounded by all sorts of pleasures that I will not talk about right now.
Though some translations seem to suggest that Paul is speaking only of dying. But, he is speaking of all forms of bodily destruction, even that which does not bring death. Those times when we are able to show our weakness for the Gospel.
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul details all of the physical hardships that he has been through.
he says:
2 Corinthians 11:30 NIV
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
In chapter 12, he sums up everything and says:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NIV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The world, or other religious systems, say: if we are able to do something, go through something, to show our commitment to God, something that we are longing for will be provided. We will gain something.
But, the world lies.

2. God’s Perspective

What is God’s perspective? I’m grateful that we don’t have to wonder. If we pull ourselves away from the world for just a minute, look at the Bible, we see the truth.

A. Love Is Beautiful

Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
The world says that flashy gifts are beautiful, that they are attractive. Paul says that without love, they are not. Therefore, Love is what brings beauty.
Which begs the question: what is love?
In the culture Paul is writing, love would be considered an emotional thing, or a sexual thing, or an ecstatic thing.
In Paul’s perspective, as we will discuss next week, love is an attitude which shows itself in acts of will as regard, respect, and concern for the welfare of the other.
Love is an action based upon a choice to do what is right for someone else, putting their welfare above your own interests.
Love does not mean like. Love does not mean lust.
Now, I have to step into some mess. There are some people who will talk about 1 Corinthians 13 and will say: Paul is speaking of αγαπη love, which divine love. The highest version of love. With ερος, erotic love at the bottom.
But, that is not true. Αγαπη at this time was very common as just ordinary love, used interchangeable with φιλεω, which is friendship love. In fact, φιλεω was beginning to be used for kiss and αγαπη used for love. The Greek version of the old Testament, which was translated before the NT was written, used αγαπη for Amnon’s incestuous lust for his sister Tamar in 2 Sam 13.
So, love is just a word. What is important is the meaning of the theology attached to the word when we are using it.
The gift of tongues, Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 14, by itself is for one’s self, it doesn’t help anyone else without a translation.
Something that is done for one’s self is not beautiful, to boost one’s self, is not beautiful. Love looks for the good of the other, and therefore brings beauty. Ultimately, it’s because we are showing Christ.

B. Love Brings Identity

What does God tell us?
Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
We place our focus so much on what we can do. What we can say. How we can boost ourselves.
However, the Christian life is a call to love. To stop looking at what we can do and can be, and start looking at the person next to us. What they need.
As Jesus said:
John 15:13 NIV
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
There is a movie call “Taking Chance,” about heroes of War. Even though we live so much for ourselves, trying to boost our identity by what we can do, we see heroes and we recognize their identity is what they do for others.
I’m hosting a monthly movie discussion group for HS jr/sr, college students, and young professionals. Next month, we are going to watch The Last Full Measure, which is about those who receive the medal of honor. Their identity is based upon how they loved.
Spiritually, it is love that enriches a spiritual gift and gives it value. Ministry without love cheapens both the minister and those who are touched by it; but ministry with love enriches the whole church. As Paul writes
Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Love brings identity, because we are showing Christ. Our identity is not in what we do, but in who we show.

C. Love Provides Something

What does God tell us?
Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We can do all the charity work in the world, we can go through all of the physical hardships in the world, but if we are only focused on ourselves, it was for nothing.
But, when we stop thinking about ourselves, and start thinking about those around us, something changes. When we stop thinking, “what can I gain?” and start thinking: “How can I help?” The emptiness inside us gets filled.
Because in that moment, we realize that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

D. Love Is An Imitation of Christ

Jesus is the person who laid down his life for his friends.
God the Father taught us love by sending His Son.
1 John 4:19 NIV
We love because he first loved us.
God the Son taught us love by giving his life and by commanding us to love one another.
John 13:34–35 NIV
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The Holy Spirit teaches us to love on another by pouring out God’s love in our hearts
Romans 5:5 NIV
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Paul writes
1 Thessalonians 4:9 NIV
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
When we choose to stop being selfish and caring only about ourselves, we are giving everyone around us a picture of who Jesus is.

3. How are we doing?

The Corinthians were not loving each other. they were abusing the gift of tongues, there was division in the church. They envied each other’s gifts. They were selfish. They were impatient with one another in public meetings. They engaged in behavior that was disgracing Jesus Christ.
Paul was urging them, in the words of Warren Wiersbe:
“The main evidence of maturity in the Christian life is a growing love for God and for God’s people, as well as a love for lost souls. It has well been said that love is the “circulatory system” of the body of Christ.”
Love is the way that we are to live. It is the function by which gifts are to be used. If we are not defaulting to love those around us, we do not know who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Craig Blomberg notes:
“We too face the problems against which Paul warns in verses 1–3. Some tongues-speakers insist that everyone must imitate them, a most unloving action toward those whom God has not so gifted. Many who proclaim God’s Word seem to think that preaching requires a change of tone and volume which shouts more than exuding compassion. Many intellectuals, including Christians, destroy their opponents’ arguments in person and in print, in a style indistinguishable from that of the hardened cynic. Some of our greatest philanthropists substitute giving for faith, as do civic and fraternal organizations that pride themselves on charitable causes into which they often throw money without the costly, loving personal involvement of the majority of their members. Liberal and liberationist “Christians” sometimes substitute social action for the authentic Christian love that flows from the assurance of salvation. Modern-day warfare has seen thousands of young people sacrifice their lives in battle and in terrorism, often in the name of religion, and sometimes, as in Islam, in hopes of quick passage to heaven. Tragically, without the foundation of genuine Christian love, any such martyrs only speed up their trip to hell.”
The Corinthians were not known by how they loved each other. Instead, they were known by how they looked out for themselves and tore the Body of Christ apart.
What are we known by?
Next week, we will discuss how Jesus showed us love, in detail, as we continue on in 1 Corinthians 13.
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