True Love I Corinthians 13 (New Living Translation)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge; and if I had such faith that I could move mountains but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless but love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture. But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child; but
when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like
puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect
clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know
everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith,
hope and love—and the greatest of these is love.
POEM: True Love… There’s a lot of hopelessness in the world but God’s love brings certain hope…
Love can always conquer whatever trouble
And love will cover over a multitude of sins.
Don’t ever underestimate what sincere love can
If it comes from God eternal, He offers strength anew.
When life is cold and grim; when hope has fled and died
Love can breathe new meaning and keep us satisfied.
Love will see you through when it seems that
all is lost
It brings fresh hope and peace—for Jesus paid the cost.
Love always finds a way, no matter what the
And its power is so much greater when we trust in Jesus Christ.
So let God have full reign, let Him live
within your heart
So you can share that love divine that the Spirit will impart.
(Author of original version unknown. Highly modified by D Hayes)
Love is an interesting and much (over) used word
with a great variety of meanings; for instance…
I love my dogs…
I love certain types of music…
I love drinking tea…
I love my football club
I love to watch detective stories
I love watching children play
I love the colour blue
I love seeing justice done
All these expressions contain the word “love” but the meanings & implications are different in each case
Lots of SONGS are about love…
There are thousands of secular ones … and a large number of Christian hymns and poems… The Bible is full of references to love
Secular songs: For instance, the singer, Doris Day, sang a song in the film, Calamity Jane that was subsequently to become very popular… ‘Once I had a secret love’
Cilla Black died a couple of years ago… Her most famous song was: Anyone who had a heart (would know that I love you)
As for spiritual songs: Take your pick!
Is there a difference in the level, quality, intensity & depth of these different forms of love?
- The answer must surely be ‘yes’!
- There is a world of difference between (say) my love for music and for my close friends
- And although I would willingly give my life to save my children, I would not give my life to save my dog… though I love them both
But the most powerful kind of love is the love-gift from God that is revealed at Calvary… a love-gift without cost to us but one that cost God everything!
To help us understand the many aspects of ‘love’, let’s start by comparing the meaning of “love” and “being in love”…
- Who do I love?
- Am I “in love” with anyone!
- Who loves me?
- Is anyone is “in love”with me?
We see straight away that ‘loving’ and ‘being in love’ is not the same thing! Yet the vast majority of secular songs & poems refer to ‘being in love’ and not principally to the concept of ‘loving’
- The Bible makes it clear that being loving can and should continue when the intensity & excitement of being “being in love” has faded
Having a loving heart does not require being “in love” …
For example, someone might volunteer to work in a charity shop out of a love for homeless people… or in Sunday School out of a love for children
When a lawyer asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, He answered simply: “Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got… and love other people as much as you love yourself”
Why did Jesus say that we should love God first? Because all selfless love comes from God the Father… the 2nd part (loving others) relies on the first (loving God)!
But what kind of love was Jesus referring to?
There are four words for “love” in the Bible…
- Erotic love (Eros) found only in the Song of Songs
- Family love (Storge, pronounced store-jay)… also used to describe the devotion between believers (‘brotherly affection’)
- General love (Philia) expressed through caring, compassion & deep friendships
- God’s divine love (Agape) seen most clearly through the love of Jesus Christ and (importantly) given to those who receive the Spirit of God into their lives
Let’s focus on AGAPE love…
- It’s a deeper and more enduring love than PHILIA love that ebbs & flows with circumstances; for example, we can fall out with people!
- We can, however, resist God’s agape love… It’s given and available to every believer but never forced upon us!
Agape love does not occur naturally… As Paul writes in Romans 5: 5: This is the (agape) love that has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us when we became His children.
Agape love should not be confused with romantic love or even ‘charity’, which is rooted in PHILANTHROPY, which broadly means ‘kindness’ or ‘generosity’ … or “doing good”… usually through donating sums of money… though Agape love may/should lead to philanthropy
- Note that philanthropy is not always prompted by love for people but can also be used to promote a political or social agenda… such as financing terrorism or funding organisations that pursue a godless agenda … This is not real ‘Philia’ love, as used in the Bible
SIGNS OF AGAPE LOVE
What characterises AGAPE love? There are at least five elements…
1. You put the needs of the other person first, with no expectation of receiving anything in return… Like a mother caring for her child.
2. You don’t hold grudges or keep reminding people of their faults…
- Hanging on to past hurts does us much more damage than it does to the person who hurt us!
- And fault-finding is not borne of God’s Spirit, though we do need to foster open and sensitive discussion about issues of life and conduct
- Be a Barnabas! (Son of Encouragement) This is NOT flattery!
3. True agape love involves trust / faith… in God and others
Jesus said: “I will never leave you or abandon/forsake you”
- Loving someone makes us vulnerable… but that’s the risk we take
- We are not being naïve in trusting others…there are too many tricksters out there… but we give those we know every chance to succeed and demonstrate repsonisbility.
4. Agape love is filled with genuine HOPE (not ‘hope for the best’!)
- Biblical hope is having a positive attitude and a confident belief in God
Studies have shown that optimistic people are happier, healthier and liable to live longer!
5. True love involves wholehearted commitment
- As someone has said: commitment always supersedes ‘convenience’
Commitment never says: “I can’t be bothered!”
A final thing…true love for God involves obedience…Jesus said that if we love Him we will do what He tells us to do
So what is Jesus telling you and I to do today?
- Is it to accept His agape love for the first time? Trusting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord IS that first step
- Is it to re-affirm your vow to love God before all else and do what He commands? So, truly, to be His disciples… Or does God have to take His turn in the queue of our priorities?
- Is it, like the disciple, Simon Peter, to love Jesus more deeply … or like disciples James & John (‘Sons of Thunder’) to have greater compassion for people
- Is it to rekindle the love you once had for another person (family member or friend or neighbour)?
- Is it the need to love those who are less fortunate or less sensible or less well educated than you … but for whom Christ died?
- Is it to love yourself as God loves you (warts & all!) by seeing your true worth in His sight?
WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE if every person loved as you love?