On the surface, some people appear to have everything. As you observe those things they have; cash, clothes, cars, and commodities it may seem as though they have more than enough—yes, you probably said to yourself, “Wow…they’ve got it going on!” However, if you look underneath the surface you may find there are many things they don’t have. They may have a house but not a home—they may have many possessions but no peace–they may have a lot but have no love.
Conversely, many people appear to not have much—although on the other hand and many times, if you look close enough you will find they have something far more meaningful than material things. Their house may not be much but they have a home —they may not have many possessions but they have peace —they may not have a lot, but they have love.
Yes, “Love is a many splendored thing!” But without love, your world becomes cold and gray like an overcast day. Without love, life’s colors are faded out —even if you’re saved and sanctified and blessed beyond measure, but still, lack the joy of the Lord because you don’t have love. Yes, there is a good possibility that you may experience both the “Haves and Haves Not”!
The Corinthian church reminds me of the church of the “Haves.” They were a very gifted church. But their problem was they were using their gifts as toys to play with, and weapons to fight with, rather than tools to build with. So Paul took up pen and paper in his letter to them to address a variety of issues in which they were having problems.
In chapter 12 Paul addresses their misunderstanding and misuse of spiritual gifts. he discusses what they are…that God is the source of the gifts…and the purpose of the gifts is meant to benefit everyone. In chapter 14 he discusses the priority of prophesying over speaking in unknown languages, and the proper use of gifts in the public worship… and at the end of this chapter, he punctuates his instructions with a command “to do all things decently and in order.”
But right in the middle of these two chapters; chapter 13, Paul discusses the proper motive in which all gifts should operate, and that is namely LOVE. He makes it clear in verses 1-3:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV)
No matter how spectacular or sacrificial your use of spiritual gifts… without love as the motivating factor, it all means nothing! It’s vain. It’s empty. It’s worthless. Put in another way, you can be very gifted and highly skilled, seemingly you may appear as though you HAVE everything, but if you don’t have LOVE, you essentially HAVE NOTHING!
Love Is…what Love Does
First Corinthians 13 is the centerpiece of the Corinthian letter, in that many of the problems that Paul dealt with would have been solved if the Corinthians had practiced the quality of LOVE described in chapter 13. What was true of the Corinthian church back then is true of us here and now. If we truly practiced biblical love, many of the problems we deal within the church, in the ministries of the church, in our families, and on our jobs would be solved to the glory of God. I want to impress upon your hearts—Christian love means being patient and kind to people, even impossible people.
Please focus your attention at (1 Cor. 13:4a)
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4, ESV)
“Love suffers long and is kind…” (1 Cor. 13:4a NKJV)
“Charity suffereth long and is kind (KJV)
Here you see that Christian love means being patient and kind to people, even unbearable people. You will see that Christian love means being patient(translated suffereth long in the KJV) and kindeven with hard to please people.
A careful reading of the New Testament unveils a resounding message; we are called to love people! In fact, Jesus said that the badge of our discipleship is when we have love for one another. The Apostle Paul told the Roman church that “we must not owe a thing except the debt of love.” He told the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of Gods working in your life, is first of all love. The gospel-writer John wrote: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)
So since having Love is so important, let’s first look at what it isn’t…and then what it is!
Biblical Love is not Simply “Brotherly Love” or “Erotic Love”
In the first century, The Greeks had several different words for love. The most common word was the word phileo.This word described the garden-variety for love—this is the love for people in your family, the love you have for friends, the love for your country. It comes into English in many words such as “Philadelphia” (the “city of brotherly love”).or “philanthropy,” the love for human beings) or “philosophy,” the love for knowledge.)
There was another word for love that was very common in the ancient world—eros.When translated into English, it almost always speaks of sexual passion, erotic love.
Our society puts a great deal of emphasis on this kind of love—just like the Greeks—We use erosto sell everything from deodorant to cars —but this word is neverused in the New Testament, probably, because of its association with pagan worship. The Greeks also used the word erosto describe the kind of response someone had when they worshiped the pagan gods. It was a moment of ecstasy that the priests tried to produce.
However, the Greeks used it in a much wider sense. It spoke to the kind of love that overwhelms you at the moment. It’s the feeling you have when you stand at the Niagara Falls, and you see millions of gallons of water pouring down and feel the spray of the water on your face. It’s what you feel if you’re a Cowboys fan, and in the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott throws a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock. You leap into the air, and you shout, “That’s what I’m talking about!” It’s the feelings that you have when you listen to Kim Burrell sing, Whitney Houston”s “I believe in you and me…” and it moves you to tears. This is eros!
Biblical Love is “Agape” love
But when you come to 1 Corinthians 13, the “love” mentioned here is different. Paul—along with other writers in Scripture—uses the word agape. What is strange about this word is that it’s seldom used outside the Bible. Classical scholars say it is only used four times outside the sacred Scriptures, and each time it’s used in a rather anemic way— It’s translated “goodwill.” Yet biblical writers take agape and baptize it into the Christian faith. It is the major word that is used to describe God’s love for us, our love for him, and our love for each other.
What characterizes this kind of love is that it’s not primarily a love of the emotions. Agapelove is a mindset, an orientation of the will. Agapelove determines that it will seek the highest good for other people. This is why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, can say, “Love your enemies”or “Pray for those who persecute you”or “Do good to those who despitefully use you.”Philosopher Immanuel Kant read those words of Jesus and dismissed them, saying it’s impossible—that you can’t just command love.He was right. If you’re talking about a feeling-kind of love, you can’t start that up like you would a fire, or stop it like blowing out a match. But agapeisn’t primarily about feelings. It is a mindset. Even if I’m dealing with an enemy, I can determine that I will not harm that person—that I will not respond to cursing with cursing, nor to repay evil with evil. Agape seeks the highest good of other people!
It is More Beneficial to Describe Biblical Love Than to Define It
Understanding the meaning is one thing, But in (vv. 4-7), in our text, Paul defines this love beyond a dictionary definition. He shows us what love is by showing us what love does. He defines love by describing “loving.”
For example; if you had no idea what music was, and I said to you, “Music is the art and science of pitches tones, scales, rhythms, beats, and harmonies” you would still wonder what it is. But if you’ve ever heard Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Beyonce, or Drake, you’d probably shout, “Now that’s Music!” If I said that diamonds are carbon in an isometric crystal that would get a passing grade on a geology exam. But if you’ve never seen a diamond, that explanation won’t mean anything to you. But slip one flawless diamond ring on a woman’s finger and she’ll know what you’re talking about! You see, to define something may be difficult to get a “handle on it” but whenever the five senses are involved there is an increased understanding regarding the subject.
So to help us understand love, Paul moves pass defining it, and rather describes it. He shows us what agapeis by showing how agape acts. In verses 4-7 you will discover Paul gives 15 different ways describing what love does and doesn’t do. The first two phrases serve as an umbrella for everything that follows.
Christian Love Means Being Patient with People (1 Cor 4a)
If we as Christians are to be what God calls us to be, if we as a church are to be what God calls us to be, If we as husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees are to be what God calls us to be, then we’ve got to get this thing called love, RIGHT!
Look at the first trait of agape; Patience. There are primarily two words in the Greek language translated Patience. One word is (hupomone), used by the Apostle James when he says that the testing of our faith produces patience. That word carries with it the idea of perseverance, or endurance —it is used to describe being patient through tough or difficult circumstances.
The second Greek word translated patience (makrothumeo) is a compound word one part meaning “long” and the other part meaning “to suffer,” —longsuffering is the (KJV) rendering. It is used here in verse 4 by Paul and it carries the idea of not retaliating when you’ve been wronged; it means to be patient with people. So, hupomonemeans patience with difficult circumstances and makrothumeo means patience with difficult people.
Look what Paul says first of all in (v.4), “love suffers long…”in other words “love is patient”! Most of us are impatient with patience! But love expressed by patience is possible because it comes from God. It’s God-produced—it’s God’s love in us—and thank God He’s patient with us!
Imagine confessing your sins, and God says, “Wait, wait, wait… which sins do you have in mind?” When you begin to spell them out, God says, “Wait, one minute… You were here three days ago confessing that. In fact, you were here three times last week. As a matter of fact, I saved you over 20 years ago and you are still struggling with the same issue you had back then. Look— I’m tired of your shenanigans so I’m not going to forgive you this time! But God doesn’t do that. According to Psalms 103:10, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”The New Living Translation (NLT) says, “He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does He deal with us as we deserve”.
He’s patient with us! “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9, NKJV) He works with us. He puts up with a lot—because that’s the nature of the God who gives us agape-love!
Another reason we should practice patience is the Bible teaches us that all humanity is depraved. We’re all sinners— we all have a curvature of the soul— we all have a polluted bloodstream—we all mess up! In fact, when you think you’ve got the upper hand on sin—have you noticed it tends to come back again? Beloved, we struggle with sin, and other people struggle with it too. So, we need to be patient with one another— even with impossible folks. You may ask, “Why?” Here’s the short answer. We should practice patience with folks because the work God does in them doesn’t happen overnight. Just like us, God has been working on all of us for a long time. That’s why it’s perfectly appropriate, when you get around burdensome people, to say, “God, as you’ve been patient with me, I need your patience—I need a little more Jesus!”
Christian Love Means Being Kind to People (v 4a)
This agape-loveis not only patient with people, but it’s also kind. It responds to others with the same tender heart and forgiveness that God has shown to us in Christ. Kindness recognizes that everybody carries a heavy load. Kindness recognizes that my wife’s day was as long and difficult as mine was. It understands that my child faces difficulties at school that are every bit as tough for him as some of my challenges at work are for me. It is empathetic to the fact that the person who didn’t speak to me when I walked in may be distracted and exhausted because they stayed up last night nursing themselves or others, just to make it to the building we call “church”.
Patience and kindness go together like a couple in a good marriage. Patience can be passive. I can be patient with injustice if it’s not happening to me or because I’m too weak to respond. But to be patient with somebody and then to respond by being kind to them? That’s a triumph of love! And people need that. All of us are on an uphill climb, carrying heavy burdens. There is trouble at every address—and all of us need kindness!
I know you might be sitting there, thinking, “you’re right,” They ought to be patient with me—they should be kind to me. We often expect everyone to understand us—some might even feel you deserve agape-love shown to you. But please be reminded, if you are a Christian believer…if you are a child of God…God’s Spirit is waiting on you to manifest His love through you to others! Brothers and sisters to sum it all up—the Christian life comes right down to us loving others by being patient and kind—by treating our neighbors, right. Jesus said, they will know you are my disciples by your love—even impossible people. What different relationships we would have—what different families we would have! What different parents we would be— what a different world this would be…by just being more patientand kind.
“Love lifted me…when nothing else could help…Love lifted me!”