Roger's Postings

Friday, February 01, 2013

1 Corinthians 13:1-13.                        Love is the answer!                             3/2/13

(1)                If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. {2} 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 have not love, I am nothing. {3} If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. {4} Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. {6} Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. {7} It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. {8} Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. {9} For we know in part and we prophesy in part, {10} but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. {11} When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. {12} Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. {13} And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 If you were to be granted one gift from God, what would it be that you would want? If you had the choice of all that the Lord wants to give us for this life, for you personally and for the good of the community, what would it be that you would choose? Now I am sure that if you called out your answers, we would get many different responses to that question. But how many of you would have asked for love.

 Now my initial thoughts were if only I had the gift of being able to speak well and be able to convince people of the value and importance of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps if I had the power to change hearts, minds and lives, so that we all could be more loving, caring and committed to the Lord and each other, and so make the world a better place to live. Or perhaps it might be to have the ability to step in and sort out some of the very difficult situations that we are facing as a church and which arise in pastoral work. Yes my first thoughts to this question, was along these lines.

 Yes, even as Christians, our human nature wants that which will make life easy for us and which will draw attention to ourselves and make us a little more acceptable. We want God to give us those gifts which will lift us up in the eyes of others.

 This, we see, was very much the case for the Christians in Corinth. They prided themselves on their great gifts: being able to speak in tongues; being a good public speaker; the ability to lead people and draw in the crowd; and many others. As they put their emphasis on these gifts and the fact that they had them, they were the cause of a great deal of disharmony and hurt. In their wanting to be in the ‘limelight’ they did immense harm to the Christian cause.

 This is why Paul had to sit down and write this letter to them; and in this chapter he gets right down to the heart of the matter. ‘If they want to know what the Christian life is all about; and if they want to be super-christians, then initially they must forget about the spectacular gifts and concentrate first and foremost on faith, hope and love: and particularly on love. Here in this chapter he is pointing out to them what this great gift of love is really all about, and thereby why it is the greatest gift. So here Paul continues on with that constant call of Jesus for his followers to love. Remember how he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. And then to love your neighbour as yourself.”

  Here again we also need to remember that when we hear the word love mentioned in Scripture, it does not have the same meaning as what is commonly understood in our society today. It is almost that the word love today has no connection with this biblical love, for our love today has a very selfish and self-centred meaning to it. This biblical love however is an all-giving love:  a giving without expecting anything in return. It is a love which places all the value on the other person, instead of the self.

 Now of course this is not something that we can achieve by ourselves because of our sinful, selfish nature. This love can and is only a product of God. In fact it is a part of God and who he is; for ‘God is love.’ For us to have this love we need then to be connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. The Spirit therefore works this gift in us by helping us to know the depths of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. Through the knowledge that we are loved, forgiven and fully accepted by God through Jesus Christ, we can then be totally focussed on God and what he says as well as on our neighbour and their good, rather than on ourselves. As we are enabled to love in this way, then we will be able to have an impact on the world around us. That is why Paul can say that this love is the greatest. That is why he sees that love is the important gift that we should all strive after.

 To see why love is more important than those other more spectacular gifts, Paul seeks to help the Corinthians and us realise that all these other gifts of prophecy, tongues, knowledge, etc, they are nothing without love. Even in themselves they are all things that will pass away. They are not the centre and core. In fact without love they are in fact harmful.

 To get the point, think about the accusations and the negative impact that are often the result of Christians today using their gifts without love. How often don’t we hear things said like: ‘They call themselves Christians and yet look how they fight and quarrel.’ Or, ‘he knows his Bible and doctrines but he couldn’t care how many people he drives away from the church.’ Or, Look how she puts on the airs and graces trying the impress people that she is somehow a super-christian who is better than everyone else.’ And I am sure you could add many others.

 But what lies behind many of these accusations, is not the gift that that person may certainly have, but their use and abuse of it. The gift is having a negative effect because it is not undergirded by love. That is Paul’s big point here in this reading. It is love which makes all these other great gifts worthwhile. It is the use of the gifts for the other persons benefit, not for our own selfish benefits, that makes them valuable. If all we are seeking to do is to get our own way, or to impress people about how good we are, and not lead them to Jesus Christ then they are a disaster. If love does not accompany everything we do then we are wasting our time, no matter how great the gift might be. It is only as we give first consideration to God and the other person that we are able to be of real and lasting benefit.

 Now why is it that love is so important? Paul goes on to stress the ideal qualities of this love: qualities that build up rather than tear down: qualities which make for good relationships that draw people to be what God intended us to be.

Paul lists what is so good about this love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.

 We could all do with a little more of those qualities, couldn’t we? They certainly would make a huge difference to life in this community if this love was at work more and more in our midst. That being the case let us concentrate on having and displaying this gift above and beyond all the others.

 Now of course to do that we will need to allow the Spirit to lead us to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us through his death on the cross. Then that love will become a stronger part of our lives. The more time we spend reading and meditating on God’s Word: allowing the Holy Spirit to deepen our understanding of the depth and extent of God’s love for us, the more that this same love will then flow out into our community around us. The more we grasp and trust what God has done for us in Jesus, the more that security and hope enables us to love in this way. That is, we can forget our selfish wants and desires and focus on God’s good and glory, and the good of those that we come into contact with.

 As we do love in this way, the more people will be drawn to give all glory and honour to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and him alone. It is surely that which we would want to do if we truly want to be super-christians. To be a truly good Christian means that can stand in the confidence and hope of the forgiveness and salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ and to then do all we can to share that with the people around about us. God grant this gift to us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran parish




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