April 3, 2016

By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor

1 Corinthians 13

The goal of our new series, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Emotions, is to bring emotions into our relationship with God, and thus with others. An important part of our intimacy with God is connection on an emotional level.  Indeed, God wants our heart and our emotions, both positive and negative, so that we may become fully alive in our relationship with Him, which then affects our relationships with others.

Today, we look at love as presented to us by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, the most extended discussion of love in Scripture, showing us the importance and definition of love for Christians:

1.  The Importance of Love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is the necessary foundation for whatever we do.

1 Corinthians 13, describing love, is placed in the midst of teachings about spiritual gifts. Paul said that we can exercise any gift we want, to any extreme that we want, but if it is not done in love, it is ineffective (1 Corinthians 13:1), giving no meaning to our life (1 Corinthians 13:2), and counting for nothing even if we give away all that we have (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Jesus Himself in Mark 12:30,31 taught us to keep our priorities straight: First, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And then, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we serve out of love, with our hearts deeply involved, it is not just a duty or vacuum.  Because our Heavenly Father has loved us personally, this love overflows to others – our family, our extended family, our neighbors, our fellow workers, other Christians, anyone God calls us to serve.

2.  The Definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Love is a long-term commitment to others that delights in their good.

  • Love is about others, not yourself (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  This is contrary to our society, which calls us to self-fulfillment, to self-orientation, and to our own goals, rights and reputations. It is not just about our happiness in meeting our own goals, or our anger when we are blocked.
  • Love delights in the good of others (1 Corinthians 13:6).  Love definitely has an emotional component, which empathizes with the joys and sorrows of others, instead of gloating over others’ wrongs or calamities.
  • Love is long term (1 Corinthians 13:7).  True love takes time and commitment….”always, always, always, always” (1 Corinthians 13: 7).  It takes time for you to continue to decide to trust and persevere and support others, when you could often choose otherwise.  One concern is that our world is so mobile, with changing jobs, housing, even churches, that if we are not careful, this can become a poverty all of its own, because we do not stick it out and learn to love one another with all our imperfections.
  • Love is eternal (1 Corinthians 13:6-12).  Paul pointed out that the time is coming, in heaven, when spiritual gifts will become obsolete. Love itself will not become obsolete, because it is eternal, grounded in the eternal love of God.  God, as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) have forever lived in loving community with each other. Why did Paul say in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that “the greatest of these [faith, hope and love] is love”?  We will not need faith in heaven, because all our questions will be answered, and we will not need hope, because the battle between good and evil will already be won.  Only love itself will remain for all eternity!

3.  Why Is Love Such a Big Deal?

If love is the most basic emotion that we should concern ourselves with, then we might ask ourselves these important questions:

How is our heart? Are we truly alive to God’s love, which motivated Him to give His Son for us? Are we willing to be transformed by God’s love?

Have we opened our hearts to see the importance of love to God and others? Do we truly love Him and those He calls us to serve?