Sermon: What Is Love?
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13
ICE BREAKER: What is the best or worst Valentine's Day gift you have ever received?
This week, we took a closer look at the famous "love" passage in 1 Corinthians 13. Odds are, if you have ever attended a wedding, you heard verses 4-8a of this passage. This robust list helps us understand what God's kind of love (AGAPE love) looks like practically in our lives. However, if you don't take in the surrounding context of the passage, you miss out on just how deep the command to love goes!
The context starts in chapter 12, where Paul addresses drama in the Corinthian church over spiritual gifts. The members are ranking the gifts and seeking the most self-serving, highest-ranked gifts for themselves. Instead of seeing the Spirit's gifts as something to serve others, they were pridefully using them to bolster their position in the community.
This obviously is not how Jesus intended the church to function, and Paul is bringing straightforward correction! At the end of chapter 12, he tells them that, regardless of what gifts they do or do not have, he can show them a better way to navigate life!
That promise brings us to chapter 13. Verses 1-3 continue the conversation about spiritual gifts. Paul says you can have the ultimate height of any of the gifts OR ALL OF THE GIFTS - and if you don’t exercise them through the lens of love, it’s worth NOTHING! He says that without love - you HAVE nothing, you GAIN nothing, and you ARE NOTHING - pretty harsh!
Finally, we get to the verses most people are familiar with that define love at a granular level:
1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant,
5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
This list should be pretty convicting to anyone honest with themselves! What a fantastic filter for our actions, decisions, attitudes, and relationships to see how we are doing in our quest to live and love like Jesus!
Finally, we get to the closing context of verses 8-13. This is where Paul digs to the deepest level and shows us how critical a life of LOVE truly is! To emphasize this, Paul returns to the discussion of gifts but focuses them through the lens of eternity! He makes two crucial points in the closing verses:
LOVE IS THE ONLY THING THAT LASTS ETERNALLY
LOVE IS THE ONLY THING WE CAN EXPERIENCE FULLY
He shows that ALL of the gifts will cease once Jesus returns! We will not need prophecy, knowledge, teaching, or tongues because all will be revealed by Jesus. We will not need the gifts of service or hospitality because all wrongs will be made right. We will not even need faith or hope since faith will be replaced by sight, and the things hoped for will be finally fulfilled.
Love is the one thing that lasts eternally! Not only that but everything else we experience in life is experienced in part. No one has all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the capacity to help, perfect theology, or perfect teaching. Everything we experience during our time on earth will be in part - except for Agape love! When we experience the love of God, it is in full, and when we love others like Christ, we are experiencing the totality of love! In a real sense, we are enjoying a sneak peek of eternity when we love others well.
Paul's two closing points - that LOVE IS THE ONLY THING THAT LASTS ETERNALLY and LOVE IS THE ONLY THING WE CAN EXPERIENCE FULLY - should greatly motivate us to learn to love others well!
Fortunately for us, nestled inside his discussion on spiritual gifts is a detailed description of what that kind of love looks like! 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is our guide on how to love like Christ!
(For your application questions, open a Bible to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
What attributes of love are hardest for you to live out?
Which of the attributes of love come easiest to you?
Practically, what is ONE WAY you will use this "love list" to start living and loving more like Jesus this week?!
CHALLENGE: This week, memorize 1 Cor 13:4-7 and recite it to your team next week!
Spend time reflecting on just how deep the call to love is. What does it mean to you that love is the only thing in life that lasts forever? What opportunities are you missing to love people around you well? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live out the kind of love explained in 1 Corinthians 13.