The Priority of Love

Generational Unity  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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True community across the generations can be challenging in family, work, and in church. How can we actually build community between the generations? Is there a magic formula or way to do this, or is it pretty simple? 1 Corinthians 13 lays out a simple yet challenging way.


We are in a series on generational unity...
b/c we are multi-generational church that is striving to be inter-generational…to the glory of god...meaning really really listening to and loving each other across the generations…showing the world we belong to Jesus...
And I want to take a poll—there are basically 5 generations represented: (online on FB—tell us which generation you are)
Traditionalists/Builder generation (born prior to 1945)
Baby Boomers (1945-1964)
Gen X (1965-1980)
Millennials (1981-1996)
Gen Z (1997-2012)
I want to show you an image that Michael Baer introduced 2 Wednesdays ago at Soup There it is—and I looked at it last Wednesday. I think it is a helpful summary — of the progression, in general from the Builder generation to Gen Z....
Now, you disagree with some of that, and you personally may not fit neatly into one generational category..but my guess is that some of this you agree with.
and if there is a difference among generations in some of these areas…it’s no surprise that this can lead to misunderstanding, debate, conflict, and division.
So what do you do?
we have already looked at the:
Power for generational community - The Gospel
Why we need each other
Today—we are going to look at a simple yet challenging way that we can actually have generational community.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 13....
This passage is the famous love passage ‘Wuv…true wuv...”
(that quote is probably generational as it comes from the Princess Bride movie).
While this passage is often read at weddings, the author—Paul did not write this in the context of marriage or a wedding.
Instead, he wrote it to a church struggling with division in their church family over all kinds of things. In this section, they were struggling with the use of what the Bible calls spiritual gifts—that is Holy Spirit given abilities and talents that God gives to all of us to use in building up and encouraging the church family for the glory of God. and there in Corinth, they were elevating some gifts like tongues more than the others.
Let’s read what he said—and think about this passage in the context of multiple generations in our church:
1 Corinthians 13:1–13 NIV
1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 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. 12 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. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
How do we actually build unity across the generations...
the answer is love...
all you need is love....
Simple…yet very challenging....
Let’s dive deeper.
More specifically—how do we apply love?
(Serve not out of spiritual giftedness or talent but out of love. another way to say this—make sure your motivation is right!) (vs. 1-3)
in verses 1-3, Paul mentions some impressive spiritual gifts.
vs. 1- — 1 Corinthians 13:1
1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
1 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.
btw—tongues can be a human language that others recognize but previously unknown to the speaker or a heavenly language…either way—If I lack love—I am only a resounding gong—I am annoying! I am not really helping anyone...
verse 2 — another impressive gift 1 Corinthians 13:2
1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
2 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.
he mentions 3 more—the gift of prophecy—the ability to fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and mountain moving faith—but have not love. I am nothing.
verse 3 — I Corinthians 13:3
1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV
3 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.
that’s impressive, but without love—nothing.
Basically, Paul appeals to all kinds of people, across giftings and generations. Some of may resonate with speaking in tongues, and the spiritual and prophecy. some of us may resonate more with the gifts of knowledge and the ability to fathom all mysteries, and some with sacrifice, giving, and practical service. whether we resonate with the heart, or the head, or the hands, whatever we personally emphasize or a generation emphasizes—the most important thing Paul says is love!
This is great news, and challenging news…if we are going to have unity across the generations...
You don’t need a special spiritual gift, or need to be as talented as someone else to make a difference for generational unity…you just need love…you don’t need a special talent…or a personality temperament…you just need love....
in other words, when it comes to unity in our church....
Godliness > gifting.
Fruit of the Spirit > gifts of the Spirit.
Character > talent. (vs. 1-3)
prioritize love...
this is what’s amazing about love…compared to spiritual gifts. I am all for spiritual gifts and understanding them…but sometimes our gifting can be very much about me and notice me—”I need a place to exercise my spiritual gift”…we can very much serve out of the wrong motivation where it’s about me and my gifting or notice me or I want my way in the church...where love takes the eyes off ourselves and puts it on others.
In fact, there are many spiritual gifts tests, almost like personality tests…I wonder sometimes if that is the wrong approach—in that—it captures our focus…instead I think if we truly sought to love one another—then I think the gifts of the Spirit might flow a little more naturally… “how can I do this out of love?”
I also wonder—as we think about unity across generations…what if instead of our generation can get our way, or maybe express our spiritual gifting or view of church, or whatever, we made loving one another a huge priority.
so #1 serve—not out of spiritual giftedness but out of a motivation to love.
Understand the characteristics of real love (vs. 4-7)
now in verses 4-7—in the original language—most the descriptions are verbs—showing us that love is action—it’s something shown....
now let me read it..and see how many qualities of love there are....count them with me.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NIV
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
that’s 15 qualities!!
15---I don’t have time to unpack all those...
but let me group them…into 2 categories...
I think one category of love--love endures
So vs. 4—love is patient—long suffering. Patient in affliction, patient in trials, endures injuries without seeking to get even with others, patient with individuals and others in the church.
And then in vs. 7—how love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. There is a persevering, continuing, never giving up aspect of love no matter what. It does not mean we are naïve or foolish as Christians, but we are incredibly optimistic and hopeful always in all things—that is one of the defining categories of our Christian love.
no matter what we may think of generations before and after—do we have an enduring, hopeful, persevering kind of love with one another—I am not going to give up loving you—no matter how hard it is b/c God has called us to that.
Certainly Paul had to show this category of love to the Corinthian church. Despite all its problems, division, baggage, people sleeping around, lawsuits going on between Christians, the strong taking advantage of the weak, people abusing the Lord’s Supper, Paul was bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring in his love.
This category of love reveals something so true about human beings—that even in the midst of loving relationships in the church (and marriage, too, and friendship), there is a kind of pain and suffering when you deal with people. As Piper says “if 2 people are in a loving relationship, or 2,000 people together, there will be hurt.” Disappointment. Grief. We will offend one another, we will hurt one another, we will let each other down and fail to live up to expectations together. That is all relationships, and certainly true in the local church, and especially true among generations…but we endure…that’s love...
who is God calling you to endure with…after all He endures you—He didn’t have to
which generation especially do you need to endure with...
another category of love is humble—love is humble—it does not focus on self.
(look onscreen) verse 4—says it is kind—it does not envy, or boast, ; it is not proud; it does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered...
The Corinthians were struggling with this aspect. They were envying one another and their gifts. Those who had certain gifts were boasting in their use of gifts like tongues, prophecy, knowledge.
Some were proud (literally—puffed up.) some were rude (this may refer to behaving indecently—sexual overtones—like chapter 5 and 6). Some were insisting on their own way—rather than at least considering the way of others (we see that in chapter 8—when some were eating meat offered to idols knowing it would offend and hurt other Christians; chapter 11—some were eating at the Lord’s Supper and the feast without waiting or hurting their poorer Christians brothers and sisters)). Some were irritable—meaning they stirred up and irritated others over this. Some were resentful—keeping a list of wrongs and holding it against others (we see this in 1 Corinthians 6—when they are suing one another in courts). Vs. 6—they were probably delighting in evil—so they could take them to court).
This category too reveals another just difficult thing about human relationships---that we are selfish and self-focused. While being in relationship with other people, even Christians is hard, and sometimes we are quick to blame others for the problems in our relationships, this passage reminds us that we, too, may be a part of the problem, and our lack of humility.
So the first category (enduring) reminds us that people are difficult to love, and the 2nd category reminds us that we are part of the problem and difficult to love, too.
and that my generation has issues just like the younger I see or the older I see..
So we have the motivation of love (love is greater than spiritual gifts), we have seen the characteristics of love,
so what is your motivation...
remember what love really looks like—its characteristics-true love endures with one another…true love is humble--
but finally…if we are going to love one another...
Finally #3-- Remember the eternal nature of love — that love lasts for eternity (vs. 8-13)
And get back to the text—Paul is arguing—vs. 8—that love is permanent. Eternal. It never ends. Prophecies will pass away. Tongues will pass away. Knowledge will pass away—that is these gifts, spiritual gifts will stop at some point. But love will not.
why would we prioritize anything else—if those things will not last—but love will.
And vs. 9-12 show why these gifts will stop.
Vs. 9—Paul says FOR we know in part and we prophesy in part—so our present gifts of using prophesy and knowledge are imperfect; they are partial in what they reveal. But in vs. 10—when completeness comes—which I think is the 2nd coming of Christ and its effects—when that perfect event comes, the partial will pass away.
btw—this is a reminder that the knowledge we think we know so well—it’s partial—it’s not complete yet. why would I insist on my generations’ own way.?
in vs. 11-12
Paul uses 2 illustrations to compare our present time of this world with the future time of God’s new world coming.
our present time in this world is like being a child; when Jesus comes back and sets up God’s new world forever—it is like being an adult in maturity. our present experience of this world and of spiritual gifts is imperfect while we wait for the perfect to come. we don’t see and understand perfectly yet—
vs. 12—it’s like looking in a mirror—back then it was looking in a piece of polished bronze, (harder to see) while we can see a reflection now, one day we will see even better—face to face—with greater understanding of reality.
our present experience and understanding are incomplete—why would we insist on our own way—love is what will last Paul says—not our spiritual giftedness, or understanding…but love
Vs. 13—punctuates it—so now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Love. Why is it the greatest? Some have argued because only love (not faith and hope will last into eternity). I don’t buy that—I think it is the greatest because God is love, and He loved us by sending His Son Jesus Christ. So stop focusing on whether you have certain gifts and starting focusing on loving one another.
Sometimes people will ask me “How can I get involved at First Missionary?” while there are a list of practical things, serving in different ministries like music and children—one of the best ways—if not the best—is to love someone here like 1 Cor. 13. Sometimes this happens in official ministries or programs of the church, but often it best happens organically, naturally, automatically.
But for this happens this means:
1. you and I must be getting to know one another; we have to be in each other’s lives so we know each other, quirks and all, and know each other’s needs. We have to keep meeting together regularly.
2. this also means we have to let people know us and let people help us (so hard—this can take months, years).
3. and this also means that you should not have to think too hard to love someone. It can include small things, like encouraging notes or words, getting together for meals, coffee, food. Helping one another with projects, visiting one another, connecting with one another.
How can you love someone well? (look around)
And this is a great time to go into our time of communion to think about God’s love.
Because let’s face it—this vision of the body of Christ, showing this kind of love to one another is incredible. Yet incredibly difficult. Let’s face it—who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community showing this kind of love—patience, kindness, not envying or boasting, not insisting on its own way, bearing with one another. Sign-me up for that!
But let’s face it, if we are honest—this is a tall task.
look at vs. 4-7…(on screen)
What if I took your name and put it in there—Mike is patient. Mike is kind. Mike does not envy or boast. He is not proud…
None of us would live up?
And here is the key—here is how we do it—we can’t, but Jesus did, and through Him and His Spirit we start to.
Think of this—Jesus was patient (long suffering with his disciples and us)
Kind (not retaliating when suffering)
He did not envy (perfectly content)
Or boast
He was not proud
nor did he dishonor others
He did not seek his own way...—but followed the way of the Father to the cross
Not easily angered
– certainly Jesus does not keep any record of wrongs with us (praise God!)
Jesus does not delight in evil—but rejoiced with the truth. Jesus protected, trusted, hoped, persevered...
Let’s pray. J
Communion - open to any who are believers
communion time—Jesus was the perfect embodiment of communion!!
1 Corinthians 11:23–28 NIV
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.
who is God calling me to love—enduring, humbly—across another generation...
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