From Scott Jeffrey
Over and over, the New Testament teaches us, that the single most essential component of our Christian life, and our Christian ministry, is love. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other…” Romans 13:8 says, “Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…” When asked which Commandment is the Greatest, Jesus said, “You shall 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 the second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love, it’s what makes us uniquely, Christian. It’s what sets us apart; so much so, that 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,” but John says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
And yet, sadly, for as important as love is to God, and for as crucial as love is to our mission here on earth, the one place, that love, should be most abundant, is often, the one place it’s hardest to find, in church, such was the case with the church in Corinth. Here was a church that had been profoundly blessed by God: blessed financially with generous givers, blessed spiritually with a multitude of spiritual gifts, blessed academically, with two of the finest teachers of their day, Apollos and the Apostle Paul; here was a church that had every advantage a church could possibly have, and yet they lacked, the one thing they needed most, love.
They didn’t love each other. And it was this “lack of love,” that caused Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to sit down and pen perhaps the deepest, most profound instruction on spiritual life found anywhere in Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, affectionately known as the, “Love Chapter.” Paul opens this incredible dissertation on love, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
And then, Paul uses the next four verses to pen perhaps the most beautiful, most complete description of love, ever written, and I say description, rather than definition, because technically, the Bible never defines love, it only de-scribes it. In fact, amazingly, with all the Bible has to say about love, it never actually defines it. It only describes it, and it never describes it, as a feeling like the dictionary does, and that’s because true Biblical love isn’t about “feeling something for someone” it’s about doing something for someone! And so, in V4-7, Paul Says “Church, this is what love is: 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.”
Please notice, that the kind of love, that Paul just described for us, isn’t the warm, fuzzy, “ooey-gooey” Hollywood kind of love. No, the kind of love that Paul’s talking about here, is the self-denying, sacrificial kind of love, that Jesus modeled for us throughout his life and ministry. It’s a multifaceted kind of love, one that’s made up of, so many different attributes, it makes it almost impossible to define, and very difficult to describe, which makes, what the Apostle Paul does in this passage, all the more ingenious. Do you know, how if you take a prism, and you hold it up to the light, that prism takes that one single beam of light, and it divides it, into a whole spectrum of different col-ors? Well, that’s kinda what Paul does here. Paul, takes this one single concept of love, and he filters it through the prism of Christ, and what comes out, are 15 different colors, 15 beautiful, distinct attributes that make up the full spectrum of God’s love, and each one is life-changing,
And so, over the next several newsletters, as we examine each of these 15 colors of love, I’d like you to filter your own life through the prism of Christ, and see what comes out. I want you to say, “Here’s my life, here’s Christ’s life, what do I have to change in my life, and in the way, I love people, to become more like Christ?” Now, because of the long introduction, we’ll only look at the first one today and pick up where we left off next week. First Paul says, “Love is patient.” It’s the Greek word, it’s makrothymeō (Maw-croth-thu-mayo) and it means “slow to retaliate.” A person, who is makrothymeō has a gentle, forgiving spirit. So understand, Paul’s not talking about patience here, in the sense of “not being restless,” like you have to be “patient” to be a good fisherman, no, what Paul’s talking about here, is forgiveness.
Paul says, “God’s love, has this unique ability to be hurt by someone, and not only does it not seek revenge on the person who hurt them, but it actually, extends forgiveness to that person. Ephesians 4:2 says, that we’re to “Always be humble, gentle, and patient, accepting each other in love.” –same word, makrothymeō. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish…” In other words, we’re to be patient and forgiving, because God is patient and forgiving, and when we think of forgiveness, it’s hard not to think, of the patience of Jesus, isn’t it? –after enduring all that he endured, crucified, and then, looking down from the cross at the very men who nailed Him there, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) That’s makrothymeō! And Paul says, “That’s the model of love, that we’re to follow.
Now, our first human inclination is to say, “Yeah, but that’s Jesus, He’s God, we’re just flesh and blood, you’d have to be God to be able to forgive like that.” And that would be a convincing rationalization if it wasn’t for Acts 7:60. I mean here’s Stephen, just a human being like you and me, and as rocks are raining down on him, breaking his bones, fracturing his skull, Stephen looks up to Heaven, and as he’s being stoned to death, cries out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Isn’t that remarkable? –No grudges. No regrets. No retaliation. Just forgiveness; and folks, that’s what God says “Christian love is.” Gods says, “Christian love is forgiving love.” Can you imagine what our relation-ships would be like, if everyone loved like that? –if no one ever held a grudge? Can you imagine what our homes would be like? –if no one ever sought
revenge? –mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives; can you imagine, what our families would be like, if we loved one another like Christ loves us?
Can you imagine, how different life would be? Jesus once told Peter, we’re to love each other with a love that for-gives seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Can you imagine what the church would be like if we loved like that? –and yet, so often we don’t, do we? I’ve seen people, break fellowship with their church family, forever, because they didn’t like the worship music! I’ve seen brothers and sisters walk out the door and never come back because some-one said something to them, they thought was insensitive. I’m embarrassed to say, that I’ve even seen people leave the church, for good, because their names were left out of the bulletin!
And I think, we’ve all seen Christian friendships, marriages, families, even churches, that were ripped apart, all be-cause someone refused to forgive. Ephesians 4:31 says that as Christians, we’re to “Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave us…” and yet, so often, we do the exact opposite, and that’s because we have short memories. We forget the great sacrifice Christ made on the cross to forgive us. Christian theologian, Dallas Willard says it like this: “To truly understand Christ’s teachings on forgiveness, we have to realize, that deep down in our spirit we can’t have one posture toward God and a different posture toward people. We are a whole being, and our true character must pervade everything we do.” In other words, we can’t have it both ways.
We can’t enjoy the gracious forgiveness of God, whom we’ve offended, and then not graciously forgive the people who’ve offended us. It’s a contradiction of who we are in Christ. We are to be like Christ, and Christ’s love, when it’s been wronged, forgives seventy times seven. And so, I’ve gotta ask you, when you look at your life, and you filter it through the prism of Jesus Christ, what does your love look like? Is it makrothymeō? Is it forgiving? Is it Christlike? Or, is it something less? If it is, if someone has offended you, if someone has hurt you, and you’re having trouble letting go of it, Paul says, “Do something about it! Put God’s love into action, and forgive that person.”
And so, first Paul says, “Love is Patient,” next Paul says. “Love is Kind,” and we’ll look at that beautiful “color of love,” next week. If in the meantime, you need help forgiving someone in your life who’s hurt you, please feel free to call or email me at [email protected] and I’d love to pray with you.