Love is the
Well here we are today on the heels of
another Valentine's Day. And I don't know about you but
Valentine's Day always tends to be a struggle for me. I never
know what small gift to purchase and I'm not real fond of all
the mushy, gushy cards you find in the stores.
Well several years ago I got the great
idea of just making my own card. Now before you let out this
big sigh and say "O how sweet," you need to understand I'm not
the most creative person in the world, and I've never been
accused of being a romantic. You see my real problem is I've
run out of words to use to the poetic verses of roses are read
violets are blue… It seems after many years I've used every
rhyming combination possible to try to convey some appropriate
So this past week I either had to
breakdown and buy a card, or I had to come up with another
source of words for my card. Well I got this great idea, I
decided why not seek some appropriate words from the Bible. So
I turned directly to the Song of Songs for inspiration. Now I
know it's too late for this year, but let me offer the
following suggestions to those of you who are like me, and
want to find just the right words, for expressing yourself.
So gentlemen here are some words you
- Your hair is like a flock of goats
(Song of Sol 4:1)
- Your teeth are like a flock of
shorn ewes (Song of Sol 4:2)
- Your neck is like the tower of
David (Song of Sol 4:4)
Now ladies here are some words you
- My beloved is like a gazelle or a
young stag (Song of Sol 1:8)
- You love is better than wine (Song
of Sol 1:2)
Certainly makes your heart tingle
Clearly love is important to humans,
and conveying love is part of what we do. In fact love is the
greatest of all human qualities, a gift given to us by God.
So on this day, the day after
Valentine's Day, with all the love in the air, and feelings of
closeness and warmth abounding it makes sense to look at love
through the eyes of God.
Today's reading from 1 Corinthians is
an often-used scripture for weddings, because of its focus on
love. As a matter of fact this scripture was used at my
wedding 20 years ago. And, as it turns out the bride and groom
at most of the weddings I have had the privilege to officiate,
select it as well.
But what is love? We throw the word
around all the time. I love you, I love your hat, I love the
fact your here, love others as you love yourself, and so on.
We even say one of the central themes of the Bible is love,
which is true, but we often times stop short of understanding
what love is, instead we allow Hallmark to define what it
means for us. So I ask us to consider today, what is this
concept we call love?
Well for the answer we can turn once
again to the Bible. Did you know there are three concepts of
love mentioned in the Bible? And the way each concept of love
is used conveys a different message.
In the Old Testament love is used in
two ways. It's used to describe a physical love between the
sexes, and love is used to describe God's love for his people,
often times expressed in the Old Testament as "steadfast
In the New Testament the primary Greek
words used to express the concept of love are agape (which is
the self-giving love seen supremely in God's love for the
world) and philia or phileo (like Philadelphia, the city of
brotherly love, conveys a love of one another as brothers and
sisters). And what's interesting, is the word Eros, the Greek
word used to express sexual love, is not used in the New
Testament at all.
Does this mean this concept of love,
Eros, is not acceptable anymore? No of course not. I suggest
eros is not used because the New Testament writers were trying
to convey what love is from God's perspective in relationship
to loving God and to loving one another. In other words,
expressing love in relationship to the two greatest
commandments: Love the Lord your God, and love others as you
Sexual love, rather than seen as a
gift from God by our Biblical friends, had become perverted
and had become another form of idolatry, so often times when
sexual love is spoken of in the New Testament it's viewed in
the light of adultery, lust, etc. all the negative concepts of
of sexual love.
So in Paul's letter to the Corinthians
what message is he trying to convey as it relates to love?
Well to understand Paul's perspective on love, it's important
to note that when speaking of love, Paul often times links
love with faith and hope, and we see this in our reading this
Paul asserts that love is only
possible because the believer has responded to God's saving
act in the death and resurrection of Christ with faith. Paul
suggests love is given to the believer by the Holy Spirit as a
gift to be exercised now in this world, and as a sign of the
new creation, which God has begun in Christ, a fulfillment
that is expected in hope.
Now that's a mouthful so let me unpack
is some. When a person receives Christ into their lives by
faith (the only way you can), the Holy Spirit gives them love,
the gift of love. As disciples of Christ we are called to live
in that love right now in this world, and to also see this
love as a sign of the world yet to come, which is the hope
Paul speaks of.
To put Paul's discussion of love into
context we see that in the chapter right before our Epistle
reading, chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is offering
evidence of the Corinthians lack of love by the way they're
not using the spiritual gifts God gave them. So in Chapter 13
Paul decides he needs to describe love to them from God's
Paul tells us that love is more
important than all the spiritual gifts we have, because in
heaven spiritual gifts are not necessary any longer, love
prevails. But while we live in this world spiritual gifts are
important as a means to express love. Did you know that faith;
acts of dedication, acts of sacrifice, and miracle-working
produce very little results without the power of love.
Think about it, if you attend a Sunday
School class, or attend a worship service as an example, and
everything you experience might be theologically accurate, and
all involved very knowledgeable, yet if there's no passion or
love expressed in the teaching or proclamation of God's
message, it can mean less to those listening, because the
message or teaching is coming from the head and mouth, not
from the heart. It's as if folks are just going through the
Take on the other hand a Sunday School
class or worship service, where some minor mistakes may have
been made with pronouncing Biblical words, or perhaps
someone's theological understanding of a concept wasn't being
conveyed quit accurately, or the choir didn't sing in perfect
harmony, yet the message or teaching was delivered with love
and grace, for most, the message is received and actually
means more because it's coming from the heart.
The point isn't whether someone is
100% accurate (which no one really can be), the point is one
message was offered from a technical or legalistic
perspective, and the other message was conveyed with a measure
of love. Which is more likely to grab your heart?
Several months ago we spent time
talking about spiritual gifts and how important it is for us
to know what our gifts are, and to use them for the glory of
God. But what we learn today, is even though spiritual gifts
are important in order to build up the kingdom of God, love is
more important. Love given to us by the Holy Spirit is where
our motivation ought to come from because the very essence of
Christian faith comes to full expression in love.
In morally corrupt Corinth, and I dare
say in our world today, love has become a mixed-up term with
little meaning. Today people are still confused by love, and
in many ways we confuse lust and love as being the same.
Take for example the idea of love at
first sight. Sometimes you can just look at a woman or man and
know that you've found your love, your mate for life.
Certainly this happens sometimes, but it can be dangerous to
think that this always typifies true love. When I saw Susan
for the first time I knew there was something special about
her, but it took time to nurture that feeling to understand
what it really meant.
Humanity has come to think of love as
primarily a feeling: a rush of emotion, butterflies in your
stomach, fireworks going off in your mind, a tingling
sensation that won't stop. But the Bible speaks of love as an
action, not simply something we feel. In reality love is like
a flower to a gardener - you plant a seed, water it, nurture
it, and weed out the things that threaten its growth, and then
after several days, weeks, or months it blossoms. And it keeps
growing and blooming as long as you feed and water it.
All relationships built on love
require continual nurturing, feeding and watering, other wise
like a flower that gets ignored, the relationship gets ignored
and eventually dies. Or, the relationship was never really
built on love to begin with; it was built on lust or some
other need. This is true whether we're speaking of human
relationships or our relationship with God.
You know love is hard work. Hear
Paul's words again: Love is patient, love is kind, it does not
envy, it does not boast, it's not proud, it's not rude, it's
not self-seeking, it's 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, and
always perseveres. And lastly love never fails. We might fail,
but love never does, why? Because love is a gift from God, and
God's gifts never fail.
If love takes this much effort why in
the world do we bother? In short it's because the benefits of
true love far outweigh the work required to maintain a loving
Why work so hard to be faithful
disciples of Jesus Christ? Because the Christian standard for
living, as modeled by Christ, is love. A faith manifested in
love for God and one another, leads to the hope of eternal
Know that faith is the content of
God's message. Hope is the attitude and focus of our lives.
And love is the action. When faith and hope are aligned, we
are free to love completely because we understand how God
Love is the greatest of all human
qualities. Love means living in such a way that the fruits of
the Spirit shine forth in all we do. Love is the answer, to
living in faith, to living with hope, to resolving all the
problems of this world. Live a life of love, and experience
Christ at the center of who you are and in what you do.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade