Love – No Matter What

“Love – No Matter What”

1 Corinthians 13:1-10 (13:7) – January 30, 2022

            With February right around the corner, many people start thinking about hearts and flowers. Thinking about chocolates and candy. Sweets for the sweet, as the old saying goes! Yes, Valentine’s Day is just two weeks away, and stores and card shops are full of red and pink displays and hearts and roses.

            As many hear this chapter on love from 1 Corinthians 13, some people wax sentimental. This chapter is a favorite to read at many wedding services in the church. “Everyone will nod along with a smile on their face. They’ll be remembering a wedding somewhere where these words were used to somehow capture the essence of this wild and crazy promise being made before the gathered overdressed assembly, this human enterprise that escapes human capabilities on a regular basis. [Or,] they’ll be remembering the Pinterest or Instagram post in fancy calligraphy, or the needlepoint in Grandma’s sitting room.” [1]

What if I were to tell you that love – the Bible’s definition of love – does not have anything to do with red and pink store displays, or hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day?

            As we reflect on the biblical definition of love, let’s see what Paul says love does NOT do. I’m turning again to the wonderful modern translation of Eugene Peterson, The Message. “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others.”

            That doesn’t sound much like lace and chocolates, hearts and big red bows, does it? No romanticized consumer version of love here! Do you recognize this honest, genuine kind of a feeling in the people you are close to, in the people you call family? Loved ones, and ones you cherish? This description is more of a love that is right down to earth, an honest, genuine feeling that is real and isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty.

            Let’s see a little more of what Paul says love does NOT do: “Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel.” When I read all of these things love does NOT do, sometimes I get discouraged. It’s like I can’t measure up. I could never be that kind of person or be described that way; could you?

This enlarged, continued description of the biblical definition of love sounds too good to be true. For real people, I mean. To me, it sounds a lot like Mother Teresa, or Fred Rogers, two people who are considered to be the pinnacle of loving, caring people.

Wait a minute! Have we talked to God about this? Paul has been telling us for almost two chapters in 1 Corinthians that God freely gives believers spiritual gifts. What is more, Paul says that love is the absolute best of these different, diverse spiritual gifts. That means that God gives out love freely! With both hands! Right here, Paul is describing the gift of love that comes through people from the Lord. Isn’t that some of the best news ever?

I don’t need to scramble and strive to love, trying really, really hard. It’s not all me, putting together my own faulty kind of caring. No! God freely gives gifts of love to God’s children. God helps us to show love and caring, kindness and unselfishness. That is such a relief for me, and such a blessing to others!

We believers here on this earth may stumble on our way of walking the Christian journey, and that is okay. We do not need to fulfill each and every part of this long, involved definition that Paul given to us, either. And, it is not just up to our fallible striving or hard work to be the most loving and caring Christian believers possible. No! God will help!

When I think of God’s love, I think of certain people who modern society might not consider. Two individuals come to mind, who I knew years ago. Both are with the Lord now, and both had the diagnosis of Down syndrome. Both people were as loving and caring as anyone I have ever met. Both were selfless, totally concerned for others, and unfailingly kind, loving and giving. Isn’t this another example of love, according to the Bible? Isn’t it what love is all about?

Let’s take a final look at the last section of Paul’s definition of love, according to God. The previous entries or parts of the description were couched in the language of what love was NOT. At last, Paul describes what love IS. “Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” These are positive, affirming, uplifting traits, indeed.

We may not be able to walk the walk or talk the talk as perfectly as Paul describes here. “But we can stand in Paul’s certainty that there is a new way of being alive in the world, a new way of seeing the world and everyone in it. Must we simply accept everything going on in our messed-up world with a smile and nod? Of course not; evil exists. But we aren’t always the best at identifying where the real evil resides. Paul argues that it would better to lead with love.”[2] Again, you and I cannot generate this kind of spiritual gift in and of our own imperfect humanity, or of our own good works. We are welcome to ask the Lord for help and lead with God’s love.

This transformation is truly a gift – a gift of love! This gift comes from God, and is freely    offered to all believers! Let us thank God for this gift of love we all can display, and we all may give to others, just as freely. Alleluia, amen!


Thanks so much to Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries for www.umcdiscipleship.com and his excellent preaching notes for this week’s worship service and sermon. I used several ideas from these notes for the sermon today

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/love-never-ends-being-the-body-of-christ/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-preaching-notes

[2] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/love-never-ends-being-the-body-of-christ/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-preaching-notes

What the World Needs Now

“What the World Needs Now”

1 Cor 13 love, ring

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 – January 31, 2016

One of the most popular themes for songs is that of love. Songs that describe love of one person for another, or songs that tell about how awful it is to have unrequited love. Also, songs that tell about the emotions and feelings that come with being “in love.”

One song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David talks about love in a basic and simple way. Saying, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

What is the state of the world, anyway? Judging from a quick view of the local news, the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, the federal government, unemployment, the drug and substance abuse problem, not to mention abuse of different kinds—against women, children, and seniors. That is not even mentioning the various armed conflicts throughout the world—fights over territory, disputes over resources, differences between people of different religious beliefs.

What can possibly bring harmony, hope and wholeness into the world today?

This brings us to our scripture reading for the day, from 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is called the Love Chapter. So often used as a scripture text for weddings! Perhaps you or a friend or relative had this chapter read at a wedding. But, did you know that the apostle Paul did not write this chapter to glorify romantic love?

I appreciate Brian Peterson’s words. “What is often missed, and perhaps actively ignored, is that this text was first written to a community that was having a very difficult time staying together. Perhaps preached with that in mind, it makes a surprisingly helpful text for a wedding! It is in the difficult realities of relationships and communities that the love described by Paul needs to be lived out in costly ways.” [1] We can see how much discord and infighting is happening in the church at Corinth. Maybe because of that dynamic, this bible passage is exactly what that group of believers needed to hear.

Yes, verses 4 through 8 give a good deal of information about love. Not eros love, the romantic type of love, or phileo love, brotherly love or the love between friends. Instead, the Apostle Paul talks of agape love, the love that comes from God, which is a higher and purer form of love. Agape is the Greek word for love that Paul uses throughout 1 Corinthians 13.

“All of the lovely poetry in verses 4-7 is designed to show a divided church how agape love looks and acts. I emphasize ‘show,’ as opposed to ‘tell.’ Paul doesn’t give a definition with a few words; he paints a picture with a full pallet of words (16 in all). It is a verbal picture, that is, a picture that focuses on verbs. That is, Paul tells us what love does, not how it feels.” [2]

Yes, Paul shows us in these verses what love does. However—he also mentions some things that love is not; what love does not do.

Starting with verse 4, love does not envy. Envy: if I envy some other pastor because of their huge church, that means I’m actively jealous of them. But, love does not work that way.

Moving on, love does not boast. Boasting? There is a fine line here. It is beneficial to have a good opinion of yourself! But, not to go overboard. I suspect we all know of someone who is boastful. That would be like me, speaking of my church administration skills with excessive pride and vanity. (False! Church administration is one area where I can learn a great deal! I am learning so much from Pastor Gordon. He is marvelous at church administration!)

Next, love does not dishonor others. This made me think for a bit. I checked out the original Greek word. I found that Paul was talking about being arrogant and conceited. You know, walking around with my nose stuck in the air. That would be like a minister who climbed so high up on a pedestal that there wouldn’t be a way of getting him or her down. Without a great big fall, or a huge crash, when the minister finally came tumbling down.

Love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t insist on its own way! I’m reminded of the character Veruca Salt from the children’s story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Veruca is rude and has absolutely no manners, and always insists on her own way! Enough said.

What is more, love is not easily angered. I love the way the Amplified Bible has this phrase: “[love] is not touchy or fretful or resentful.” We all know what those emotions are like. Anyone who is showing those qualities is not showing love.

Love does not delight in evil. That means that love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness. When I watch television or read articles in the newspaper or online, sometimes I see horrible injustices. For example, I just read an article in the BBC World Service of a province in India where the birth of every girl child is met with mourning and great laments. That’s right—for every girl child born. One doctor, Dr. Ganesh Rakh, runs a hospital in that province. He thought that was not right. So, he has decided that every girl baby he delivers with be delivered for free. But the boy babies—for those he still charges.

In the four years since he started this campaign, he has delivered 464 baby girls. What a way to change the closeminded injustice of a group’s mindset. He now gets praise from many Indian ministers and government officials. All because he shows love to girl babies. [3]

Here, in this sermon, I have given several examples of what not to do. How not to love.

This is a penetrating way to teach people. Show them by example—examples of how not to love. Examples of jealousy or boasting, arrogance or rudeness. And especially, an example of a horrible injustice, where people are openly bigoted against females. (This can also be true of people who are bigoted about other differences, too, like about slavery, or people of color, or of a different class of people, or of other nationalities or countries of origin.)

Those bad examples? Paul shows us clearly in this passage—don’t do those things! Don’t be that way! Sometimes, a bad example is the quickest way to our hearts and minds.

We can clearly see that Paul’s ministry of love, harmony and wholeness is for the whole world. Not just about taking care of those in our family, although that’s important. It’s more than “taking care of our own,” although that is certainly laudable. It’s about showing love for everyone. For those affected by loneliness, or despair, disaster or disease wherever they are, without exclusion of those not like us or even of those we fear.

What did the Apostle Paul tell us about love? Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (That is, always. Always.)

Love never fails.

Ending as I began, we look at the Bacharach and David song, “What the World Needs Now.” The chorus of the song tells us the world needs love, sweet love. Badly.

“No, not just for some, but for every, every, everyone.”

Amen, Lord. Amen.

[1] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2734, Commentary, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Brian Peterson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

[2] http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/epiphany-4c/?type=lectionary_epistle

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35379231

@chaplaineliza

Suggestion: visit me at my sometimes-blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind .  Thanks!