Today we enter the month of love.
1 Cor. 13 is popularly known as the LOVE CHAPTER.
In this part of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he tells us what is most important about our new life in Christ.
He says it is not about how spiritual you may be. He says that it doesn’t matter how well you may know the Bible. It doesn’t matter how many spiritual gifts you may have. It doesn’t matter what kind of sacrifice you may make. It doesn’t matter how great your faith may be.
Essentially, he says that your religion is useless if it does not produce love in your heart.
If you do any of these things without love in your heart, you have simply wasted your time and effort.
Without love, all the good deeds in the world, or practicing the greatest religion will amount to nothing.
He then goes into a description of what love looks like.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:4-8, 13 ESV)
He begins with two qualities of what love is and then mixes it up with some things that love is not.
Let’s sort these out for clarity.
What love is NOT—
I look at that list and realize something about the last one—resentful.
Resentment is a result of keeping a record of wrongs, which is the way some of the translations render that phrase—love keeps no record of wrongs.
But I also see that the five negative qualities above resentment are also a result of being resentful.
Nobody likes those qualities when they encounter them in another. We are put off by someone with an arrogant attitude. We certainly despise rudeness in any form.
People who try to control others, especially those of the family, usually say their actions are born of love; but trying to control those you love is not love.
It is oppressive and often the outward manifestation of being jealous.
Resentful, controlling people are also usually easily irritated.
Any of these qualities show that your love is in need of repair.
How can we possibly repair our love?
Have you ever heard the statement that love is a verb? Love is shown in action. It is more about what we do than what we feel.
And that is what we find when we look at the positive qualities of love that are listed in this passage.
What love is
- Rejoices with truth
- Bears all things
- Believes all things
- Hopes all things
- Endures all things
- NEVER ENDS
When we look at these qualities of love—both the negative and the positive—we probably will see something in which we come up short.
If that is true for you, then make it a purpose to improve that particular quality beginning today. Think about it. What can you do to make that happen?
However, I would like for us to focus on that last quality for a few moments.
Love Never Ends
I would think most of us have a had a time or two when our love was tested for its durability. If we didn’t outright do it, we came close to losing our patient love at least for a moment.
But true love never ends.
True love is unconditional. It is not dependent on the other party, the one who is loved. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, they are still recipients of your love.
In the true story of the Cross and the Switchblade, Nicky Cruz threatened to cut David Wilkerson into a thousand pieces. Wilkerson responded with, “And every piece will cry out I love you.”
Cruz eventually surrendered to that love and became a minister with an international following.
Is that the kind of love we possess? Maybe for you, but I don’t think I am there yet.
But God’s love for me, God’s love for you is at that place. His love never ends.
Before I take you to the scriptural proof of such a statement, let’s apply just a little logic for a moment.
The verse we are considering says that love never ends. John tells us that God is love. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1Jo 4:8 ESV]
Now, even though we have no further information from John on that quality, we can take what we know about love that the Holy Spirit has given us, and apply it to the Lord. Right?
If God is love and one of the qualities of love is that it never ends, then we can know that God’s love will never end.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
[Lam 3:22 ESV]
If His love and mercy never end, then what does that say about your sin? Which sin will try His patience to the uttermost so that His love for you will cease? At what point can you get so far astray that His mercy cannot reach?
Listen to the scripture.
They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. [Neh 9:17 ESV]
These were God’s chosen people that refused to obey, that paid no attention to all God’s miracles on their behalf. They willingly and knowingly walked away from being led by God’s ways to follow their own desires.
Yet God did not forsake them.
While preparing this lesson, I noticed that the phrase “steadfast love” is used 50x in the Psalms alone. It is an important concept that we would do well to get into our thinking.
God’s love is steadfast.
What does the word steadfast mean?
Resolutely Firm and Unwavering
Steadfast means solid; firm; cannot be shaken.
God’s love for you cannot be shaken by anything on this earth, under the earth, or in the heavenlies.
His love abides continually.
In closing, I just want you to read through the Bible with me as we see this theme repeated.
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. [Mal 3:6 ESV]
God does not change. His love, mercy and justice keeps us from being consumed.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. [Psa 86:15 ESV]
God is not secretly waiting for you to mess up so He can get you for that.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. [Mic 7:18 ESV]
Even though frustration and anger may show up, they are only temporary as His love and mercy take over.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:38-39 ESV]
Absolutely nothing can separate us from the Love of God.
That ought to make your heart sing and dance.