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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Learn How To Love: The Identity of Love
Text:1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Love
 
Added:2022-05-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Peter 2:11-25; 4:1-11

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

LEARN HOW TO LOVE: THE IDENTITY OF LOVE

  1. Know what love is

  2. Avoid what love isn’t

  3. Do what love does

 

  1. Psalm 99: 1, 2, 5, 6

  2. Psalm 70:1, 2

  3. Hymn 48:2-4

  4. Hymn 38:1-4

  5. Psalm 48:1, 4

  6. Hymn 50:1-4

 

Words to listen for: costly, doormat, gentle, delight, foundations

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What did the Corinthians think about love?  What do we think about love?

  2. How is patience different from being a doormat?

  3. How are envy and boasting related?

  4. How does love cover over a multitude of sins?

  5. What the the two substitutions we can make to this text?  How can they help us?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


People of God, loved by God,

What is love?

On the one hand, love is a very simple thing.  The love that a mother has for her newborn baby is natural.  Simple, and beautiful.  While a father does not have the benefit of his child sharing his body for 9 months, that love flares up quite naturally when he feels the baby kicking in the mother’s womb, or, after the birth, when the child grabs his finger for the first time.  Love isn’t difficult.

But on the other hand, love isn’t quite so easy.  As we heard last time, the love that this world shows does not even deserve to be called love.  It falls so far below what love actually is.  And culture, it is said, is far more often CAUGHT rather than TAUGHT.  Very few of us here were ever explicitly TAUGHT that love is a disposable thing.  That love can easily spring up and then, just as easily fade away.  That love is a selfish thing.

But instead, we see and hear and experience the world’s view of love.

          A man will say he loves his car.

          A woman will say she loves her job.

          Children will say that they love their toys.

But is this actually love?  This “love” is really selfishness!  That car the man loves...if it constantly breaks down, if it needs thousands of dollars of repairs each and every year...the love for that car quickly fades.  Unless the love is really for the fixing of cars.

A woman’s job is loved until a boss starts treating her unfairly.  Or her salary is cut while her workload increases.

The toys of children are loved when they are new and shiny.  But if they get scratches, or don’t work properly anymore...they are quickly abandoned.

The problem is that men, women, children...you all (and I include myself here too), you are not loving the car, the job, the toys...you are liking the way that they make you feel.  You are thinking about the benefits that you get from them.

And this is fine for cars or jobs.  If the car breaks down, if your job becomes unbearable...you can move on.  You probably should.  But when we apply this to people...when we apply this to our brothers and sisters in the faith, or to those who do not yet know God...this is when we have wandered into sin.

So often we treat people like they are THINGS. When they are nice to us, when they give us what we need, we love them.  It’s easy to love your husband or your wife when they are giving you presents.

Or spending time with you.  Or showing love in any number of ways.  But what about when you’re arguing with them?  What about when you have fundamental disagreements?  What does love do then?

It is easy for us to go too far the one way or too far the other when it comes to love.  On the one hand, the one extreme, we can have worldly love.  A love that is really the love of self. Selfish, and prideful.  Only loving when people do things our way.  This is sinful love.

But on the other side, the other extreme, we can see love as something that makes you completely passive.  That no matter what someone else does to you, all that you do is say… But I love them.  So I will take it.  Quietly and submissively.  Doing nothing.

But that is not love either.  That is a warping of love.  A twisting of Paul’s description of love as patient and kind.  A manipulation of love bearing all things.  This is not what Paul is teaching.  This is not how we are to live.  This is not what it looks like to walk in the way of love.

It’s not easy to walk in the way of love.  It is difficult.  It is costly.  Walking in the way of love will cost everything you have.  But it will give you so much more.

So I encourage you to...

LEARN HOW TO LOVE: THE IDENTITY OF LOVE

  1. Know what Love Is

  2. Avoid what Love Isn’t

  3. Do what Love Does

In order for us to learn how to love, we need to learn more about what love actually is.

The Corinthians were confused.  Just as we learned from our society that love is disposable, the Corinthians had learned that love was secondary to status.  Status, really being somebody in the eyes of the world...that was what is was all about.  And if love helped them get there...then it was fine.  Otherwise, it was a waste of time.

But the Apostle Paul is pleading with this congregation, pleading with his brothers and sisters to really and truly understand what love is.

Last week, we heard that Paul had eagerly taught the Corinthians that love was more useful than tongues.  That love was greater than faith.  And that love was more valuable even than life itself.

And the Corinthians, with their narrow view of love as a mere tool...they would have thought, Right...okay Paul.  There’s no way that THAT’s true.

And so Paul continues in his letter.  He wants the Corinthians to know what love is.

Love is patient and kind.

 

Love is patient.

This isn’t the first descriptor of love that we would expect, is it?  We might expect a description like we hear in the songs on the radio.  Maybe something like: 

  • Love is so confusing there’s no peace of mind

    • Am I in love?  Who knows??

    • Does she love me?  How can I even tell?

 

Or what about

  • Give me a love that burns hot enough to last

    • If our love is so passionate, if it is so powerful, then it will have to last!

 

But the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit begins by explaining that love is patient.

For each of these descriptions of love, we should look to God as the perfect example of these things.  For our God IS love.

Our God is patient.  He is long-suffering.  He is long-suffering, not only with the world over their sin, but He is long-suffering with US!  He suffers when the church, His beloved bride, is sinful.  When she is unfaithful to Him.

God is the ultimate example of patience.  But God, the personification of love, is not patient for the sake of being patient.  Rather, in His patience, He is waiting.  Love patiently waits.

But what does love wait for?  What are we supposed to be patient over?

We must be patient over the evil and wickedness in this world.  Just as God suffers through it, we also suffer through it.

Practically, what does this mean for us?

The Apostle Peter sheds some light on this in our reading this morning.

1 Peter 3:19 - For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God...if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.

Patience means that we must endure when someone does us wrong.  

Whether it is just a perceived slight that wasn’t meant, or if it was someone actively intending to do evil.  We must endure.  Endurance is the way of love.

But patient endurance is not the same as inaction.  Although Jesus did not retaliate when He was insulted, through He made no threats when He suffered, this does not mean that He was inactive.

Patience, the strength of Christian love, is never the same as being a doormat.  Let me make this very clear with an example.

Children, if you are being bullied on the playground or in the classroom, Christian love demands that you do not bully that person back.  If they insult you, you shouldn’t insult them back.  But what it does mean is that you can, and should, tell someone.  Tell someone because you want justice to be done.  You want the bully to learn that what he or she is doing is wrong, and change their ways.

Love means not wanting the bully to get bullied.  Love means wanting the bully to stop bullying.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is both patient and kind.

It may seem obvious that love is kind.  Nobody would say that it is the loving thing to be unkind.  But keep in mind that the Apostle Paul is describing the ESSENTIAL characteristics of love here.

What that means is that love is ALWAYS kind.  There is never a moment when love is not kind.  Without kindness, love stops being love.  Love, and by extension, loving people, at our best or at our worst, must be kind.

In this way, we can see that love is unconditional.  It does not matter what someone has done to you...well, perhaps that takes it too far.

When someone has done you wrong.  When someone has failed to show YOU love, it matters immensely.  They are breaking God’s law.  What I mean to say is that when someone has done you wrong, it should not change your response to them.  You can trust in the God who judges justly.

What they have done to you will be made right.  It has been made right on the cross, or it will be made right at the end of time.  But your job...your job is to love.  To be kind.

Always try to be NICE…

But never fail to be KIND.

Sometimes being nice is the same as being kind, but not always.  Sometimes being kind is calling someone out.

Sometimes being kind, patiently enduring, is challenging someone to be better.  It is teaching.  It is guiding.  It is telling the other person what love looks like...and then showing them by your example.

And that second step is vitally important.  You must show them with your actions.  Never be cruel.  Never be cowardly, but instead, be kind.  Always.

Our entire salvation rests on the patience and kindness of our God.

His patience is His mercy.  Our God suffered through the sins of His people until Christ came to pay for them.  It is His patience that has stopped Christ from coming back on the clouds of heaven.  The number of the elect are not full.  Perhaps not all of them are born yet, perhaps more are on the way...but just maybe...just maybe they have all been born, but they have not yet come to faith.  And God is patient with them.  He is showing them mercy, because He knows that they are His.  He knows that His Spirit will change their heart and work faith in it.

His patience is His mercy, and His kindness is His grace.

His grace that He lavishes upon us.  We are saved BY His grace.  It is His grace that lets us be called His children.  It is His grace that has given us eternal life. That has given us spiritual gifts beyond measure.  The gift of faith.  The gift of leadership.  The gift of love.  The most excellent gift.  The most excellent way to use the other gifts.  We must always walk in the way of love.  And if we are to do so, we have to avoid everything that love is not.  Our second point.

Love IS patient and kind...but what about the other side?  What is love NOT?

The Apostle gives us a list of 8 things that love is not.  We will go through all 8, but only briefly.

Love does not envy or boast

A love that does this is that worldly love again.  That worldly love that says, “Me!  Me!  Me!”

This is the way that the Corinthian church were acting!  Everything was about them.  It was all about their status.  How other people looked at them.  They were using love for this perverse purpose.

If you truly love your brothers and sisters in the Lord, you will not be envious of how they have been gifted by God - either with spiritual gifts, or with physical blessings.

Envy is for those who do not have...or at least those who think they do not have.  But for those who are blessed and know it...there is instruction for them too.

Love does not boast.

If you have been richly blessed by the Lord, you may take pleasure in His gifts, He has given them to you to enjoy, after all.  But what is more, He has given them to you in order to use them for His kingdom work.  Those who have been given more, more will be expected of them.  Someone with many gifts will have no time to boast about them to others, they will be hard at work, busy exercising these gifts out of love for God and love for their brother.

Love is not arrogant

Look to the example of Jesus Christ.  Our Saviour had every right to stay in heaven and not come down to this earth.  But love happened.

Our Saviour, when He came, deserved to be born into wealth and splendor.  For His birth to be noticed by the world.  But instead, how did it happen?  In the little town of Bethlehem.  In normal, humble circumstances.  His birth was announced by mighty angels...but only to lowly shepherds.  And as He grew up...He was known, not as the Son of God, but as the son of Joseph the carpenter.  His parents did not understand Him, His brothers didn’t believe Him.

Our Saviour was gentle and lowly in heart.  He was the exact opposite of being arrogant.

Although He had every right to the best life earth could offer, He suffered all the days of His life, and then bore the full wrath of God on the cross.

Whenever we feel arrogant, whenever we are puffed up with our own importance, look to Jesus Christ.  And pretty soon, your sense of entitlement, your sense of pride will be deflated.

Love is not arrogant...or rude.

Love is not rude.

Or, as some other translations have it, love does not behave shamefully.

Love does not violate God’s commandments, but instead love fulfills the commandments.  The commandments flow out of love.  That is what Jesus Christ meant when He said, in His summary of the law, all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.  That is, love for God, and love for the neighbour.  While these commands do SUMMARIZE the law, they are also the ROOT of the law.

Love does not behave shamefully by humiliating or abusing those around us.  By shouting or screaming when we don’t get our way.  By lashing out with our words or with our fists.

Love does not insist on its own way

Or, as the NIV has it, “Love is not self-seeking.”  And this is better.  Because there are times when “our way” is God’s way.  When we our faithful to Scripture, we must insist that this way is follow.  Love seeks to do what is in accordance with God’s law.  Love seeks to live a selfless life.

Another way of saying this is that if one is living the life of love, following the way of love, they will admit it when they are wrong.  Their ultimate goal is not to be proved right or to avoid embarrassment, but always to do what is right.  Always to do what is best.

Love is not irritable

Parents especially know what it is like to be irritable.  After a long day at work, you get home, and things aren’t really how you want them to be.  Maybe your husband was supposed to start dinner.  Maybe your wife was planning on cleaning the house while you were at work.  But those things aren’t done.

And then the children.  Child number 1 wants to take the car out, child number 2 needs help with their homework, child number 3 needs you to bake 2 dozen cookies for tomorrow.

And when this happens, you just want to give up.  Now, I am not a parent, but I KNOW parents, I HAVE parents and...I’ve been on the other side of this.  I was a child at one time.

But nobody is immune to being irritable.  To being easily angered or annoyed.  But love has to take a front seat.  When everything in you wants to be angry and to snap at your children or your spouse or your parents...you take a deep breath.  You remember what is truly important.  You remember your responsibility to love.  And then you dive right in.

Love is not resentful

Or, as the NIV has it, love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love refuses to hold a grudge.  Love takes it very seriously when Jesus Christ teaches that we should forgive someone 70x7 times.  If you want to take that literally it is 490 times.  But the point is that love shouldn’t even count past one time.

Each time that someone does something wrong and is truly sorry for their actions.  If they truly repent and work hard to do it differently...love believes them.  No matter how many times they say “sorry” there should always be a “I forgive you” ready for them.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Of course love, true love, will rejoice with the truth.  For our God is the God of truth.  We should not take pleasure in what causes Him pain and suffering.  We should not rejoice in the very thing that caused our Saviour to die!

Do not revel in wickedness.  Do not delight in hatred, or hold onto your sins.  But see them as what they are.  See your sins as the spikes that held Jesus to the cross.  For the physical nails were not what kept Him on that cross.  It was our sins.

It was out of His love and our need for our sins to be forgiven that He stayed on that cross until it was over.  Love drank the cup and love drained it dry.

Beloved, love is not a powerful feeling that sweeps you off your feet.  It is not merely passion.  But it is COMMITMENT.  It is PATIENT ENDURANCE.  It is doing what is right even when your entire body is screaming no.  Love is an action.  And as people loved by God, we need to do what love does.  Our final point.

We have seen what love is.  We have learned what love is not.  But what exactly does love do?  The Apostle Paul explains this in four statements.

Love bears all things

Love believes all things

Love hopes all things

Love endures all things

 

Love bears all things

Loving bears all things.  This is very similar to love being patient.  Love bears up under suffering.  When suffering comes to the Christian, it is the suffering that will eventually be defeated.  The man with love in his heart will not give in.  He will not give up.

The remedy for suffering, the remedy for evil is love.  Because darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 

We cannot repay evil for evil.  That is not how the Christian acts.  But instead love bears all things.  Not because it is weak and passive, but because love is the thing that transforms.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Love believes all things

This is not to say that love is gullible or naiive.  Love believing all things is love wanting to believe the best in the other person.  This is the love that truly forgives 70x7 times.  Each time they hear “I’m sorry” they are ready with “I forgive you.”

And this is not unrealistic optimism, but rather this is a refusal to take failure as final.  Yes, this person failed again.  But love is greater than failure.  Love always gives another chance.

By giving another chance, love believes that a person can change.

In our reading, we heard these beautiful words from 1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love covers over a multitude of sins.

HOW does love do this?

There may be those who say, “Who cares HOW it does...I’m just glad THAT it does!”

But we should care how.  We should ask these questions, because sometimes we are the ones who love, but more often, we are the ones who need our sins covered over by the love of another.

Love covers over a multitude of sins because love fills the void.

Sin always leaves a void.  Whether it breaks the heart of a wife, or leaves a husband to raise the children by himself.  If we feel fear and anxiety due to trauma.  Sin hurts us.  It leaves a hole in our heart and a hole in our life.

But love fills that void.  The love of a friend, of a brother or sister in the Lord can start your process of healing.  Ultimately, of course, God is the one who heals, but so often He chooses to use His bride, the church, to accomplish that healing.

Love hopes all things

Love can hope all things because those who love know God.  Those who truly love have been born of God.  Love can have hope even in the darkest of situations.  In cases where you can see no way out.  Where everything around you is blackness, love is the light that breaks through.

And we know this is the case, we KNOW this is true, because this is the story of the gospel!  This is the story of the gospel, is it not?

Love came into the darkness.  Love was the light that shines in the darkness.  And no matter how hard the darkness tries, even one small flame banishes it away.

Love is what gives us hope in all things.

And finally, love endures all things.

There is nothing stronger than love.  Love is the power that has been supreme since before the foundations of the earth, and will reign supreme for all time.  Love is eternal and it will never fail, for God never fails.  It is as simple as that.

So, congregation, this is love.

And yet we know this passage so well, don’t we?  How much new information did we really learn about love?  Maybe some of us will come away with ways that we can accuse others.

You’re not being patient with me!  So...you’re not really showing love!  Didn’t you hear the pastor on Sunday?

You’re not allowed to hold a grudge against me. The pastor said so!

Now, of course, if you would say these things, you weren’t really listening either.  BUT.  Let me read our text for you...twice over, with some minor changes.  I think this might change the way you see this passage, and change the way you see yourself.

First change.  Substitute the name of Jesus for the word “love.”

Jesus is patient and kind;

Jesus does not envy or boast;

He is not arrogant or rude.

He is not self-seeking;

He is not irritable or resentful;

He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Jesus is our template, isn’t He?  He is the example of perfect love.

When we worry if God really loves us, if He has continued to be faithful despite our sin, read this passage with “Jesus” or “God” in the place of love.  This is the gospel truth.

And the second change.  Substitute your own name for the word “love.”

I don’t want to single anyone out here, so I will use my name.  But as I read this passage, I want you to read along with me, using your own name.

_________ is patient and kind;

_________  does not envy or boast;

He is not arrogant or rude.

He is not self-seeking;

He is not irritable or resentful;

He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

_________  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

He sounds like a pretty great person, this _________ doesn’t he?  Not sure I stack up…

And that is the question.

Is this an accurate description of you?

Is there truth to this when you read it?

I know that I have a lot of work to do in my life before I get to the point where this would be completely true for me.

But the good news is this.

Jesus Christ has loved perfectly for me.  Jesus Christ has loved perfectly for you.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to love.  Jesus’ perfect love does not make your love pointless.  But rather, Jesus’ perfect love makes your love POSSIBLE.

So work hard this week.  Work hard in the strength that the Spirit gives you.  Work hard to love one another.  So that 1 Corinthians 13 can be an accurate description of your life.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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