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... 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a (NIV)
This passage out of 1 Corinthians 13 may be one of the most familiar in the entire Bible. It is a commonly used wedding passage and it gets plenty of airtime both in and outside of the church. However, I could not write notes quickly enough as I listened to this week’s sermon! John and Luanne shed so much light on what these verses actually mean–both in definition and in practical application. It is difficult to know where to begin this week… I can’t possibly cover all of the life-giving truth that was shared with us–there were so many outstanding points–so if you missed the sermon, please take the time to listen to it.
Let’s start with the basics…
I John 4:16 tells us “God is love”. And verse 19 of the same chapter reminds us that, “We love because He first loved us“. So this love that we’re talking about, it doesn’t come from us. We cannot manufacture it, produce it, fake it. Real love, this “agape” love has one origin: God Himself. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son…” (1 John 4:10)
Luanne, quoting pastor Scott Sauls, shared that, “Love has to be a person to us before it can become a verb…[It] is caught rather than achieved… The more we are with Jesus, the more we will become like Him“.
So, we can’t love until we have experienced love. Not in the way this passage is defining love, anyway. It is important that we understand that this love we’re talking about, it’s not the watered-down English word we throw around as we go about our days. The word that is used is “agape”. This love is a selfless love, a love that willingly and joyfully thinks of others without condition, a love that moves. It is “a love that loves on despite reaction or response” (Jill Briscoe). This kind of love, it only comes from God.
John talked to us about the oxygen masks on an airplane, how the instructions are always to put your mask on first, before assisting anyone else with theirs. So it is with the love of God. We cannot give someone else what we have not first received ourselves. Our “mask” has to be pouring God’s love into us before we can think about attaching anyone else to that love supply. What is not flowing into us cannot flow out of us. Pretty simple, right? But John identified a problem we have to wrestle with…
“We’ve gotten so fixated on our own air, we have forgotten the other…”
We have the air. We have the love of Almighty God in the person of Jesus Christ. Our “masks” are firmly and forever connected to the endless supply of God’s great love. We know that experiencing this agape love, it changes everything. It brings life, freedom, peace, joy and all of this in abundance.
Why are we hoarding the air? Are we so fixated on ourselves that we forget to extend this gift, this love to everyone else? We were reminded yesterday that,
“Everything we have in Christ is for us AND everyone“.
Are we living as though everything we have in Christ is only for us? As though love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things for us–but not for everyone else?
On an airplane, we are instructed to make sure our masks are firmly in place first. Then, we are instructed to help those around us who need help putting on theirs. If you were sitting on a plane that was about to go down and you had put on your mask but there were several people around you that couldn’t put on their own, would you sit in your chair and lean your head back? Would you deny them assistance with the oxygen they need to survive? I’m going to go out on a limb and say, of course not! I imagine that it wouldn’t matter if you knew them or not–if people around you were going to die without help attaching their masks properly, you would help them. I would help them. Regardless of who they were or how well we knew them; regardless of race, religion, gender, age, political affiliation, or any other factor…
People are going to die without their masks connected to the love of God.
We have the air. We’ve experienced this love. We are eternally connected to the endless supply. What are we doing with it? Is what’s flowing into us also flowing out of us? In what measure? Are we “catching” the love of Jesus by spending time with Jesus, learning what this agape love looks like and acts like in a life? Are we mindful of those around us, aware of their need for help connecting to this supply we’ve tapped into?
Or are we content to let the plane go down, aware of the need around us, but unwilling to move from our seats? If we are, we may not actually be connected to the right love supply. Because agape love, the love described in the passage above, it is not self-seeking. It is not ignorant or apathetic to the needs of others but rather lays down its own life on behalf of others. The way love Himself did. For us… and for everyone…
1st Corinthians 13 is, like Laura wrote, an incredibly familiar passage. Before preparing for this message, I had (like many others) disconnected this passage from the rest of the book. Paul was frustrated with the church in Corinth. They had forgotten the main thing. They were arguing about silly things like which spiritual gift was superior to others; they were forgetting their first love–so in the middle of chapters 12 and 14, which both address spiritual gifts, Paul takes them back to the most important thing in all of Christianity–Agape.
“God so “agape-ed” the world that He gave His only son.” John 3:16.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you agape one another, even as I have agape-ed you, that you also agape one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have agape for one another.”John 13:34-35
” Jesus replied: “‘Agape the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Agape your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:27-39
And Paul concludes 1st Corinthians 13 with these words: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and agape. But the greatest of these is agape.“
According to one of the definitions that I read: The true expression of Agape love is outward. Agape love is always shown by what it does. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will.
God has promised us Agape love as we allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The very first aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is Agape.
“ … the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape) , joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Compare the fruit of the Spirit to Paul’s description of Agape love in 1st Corinthians 13. Agape (Love) is…patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…
So, if Agape love is a fruit of the Spirit, how do we get it?
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13).
And then follow His lead.
THEN we will begin to see people the way God sees them…ALL people. Then we will begin to love people the way God loves them. ALL people. Agape is counter cultural. Agape is different from what our flesh desires. Agape is counter-intuitive. Agape will stretch us and grow us. Agape will draw people to Christ.
German Poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”
What could we want more than them coming to know Jesus and then becoming like Jesus?
Ask God Every. Single. Day. for more of the Spirit. Pray for Agape. Pray for all of the fruit of the Spirit to flow through you to others. Pray for the ability to see people the way Jesus saw them, full of belief and hope in their God-given potential, willing to stay with them until the end, keeping them safe and protected in His love, and never ever ever giving up…
Precious, loving Lord Jesus– as we spend time with you, getting to know you, becoming more like you, please fill us with more of Your Spirit and then use the Agape that flows through us to change the world for Your glory. Amen.