1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is a beautiful portion of Scripture of love.
I want to focus on verses 4-6 and focus on the lifestyle that God has invited us into. “Agape” is an ancient Hebrew word that means a divine love, a God love, that is to shape our life.
How many of you used a mirror this morning? Don’t be bashful, most of us did. How many of you like mirrors? I do, call me vain. Give me tinted glass on a car and I’ll utilize it. Reflection is effective, efficient, and helpful.
My wife doesn’t like mirrors. I didn’t know what she meant! She explains that she doesn’t like focusing on herself. She only uses a mirror once per day! She is amazing. I do not have that gift, I use everything that reflects. I like mirrors and I don’t mind looking at my reflection. Mirrors are helpful and I want to make sure I’m not having “one of those moments.”
Furthermore, what kind of friend are you if you don’t tell someone if they have spinach between their teeth? Or something hanging out of their nose? It’s tough for me to say, but I can hand my friend a mirror.
I think this is how Paul is writing to the Corinthians. He has a mentality that this passage will be a mirror for them.
This passage of Scripture, along with John 3:16, is the most used Scripture in our world. We put the words on wall art and marriages are all about this. It’s an important passage to us.
Actually, to be honest, the passage is a bit of rebuke. Remember, Paul had been Saul and persecuted Christians. Jesus sparked a transformation in Paul’s life and he eventually wrote two-thirds of the New Testament.
Corinth was a vogue city and it didn’t really know much about Jesus. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians wasn’t one with an encouraging tone. It was more, “What is going on over there? I heard you aren’t living well.” You see, living well and loving well go hand in hand. If you are living well then you are loving well. But the Corinthians weren’t living well and there was a lot of strife and all kinds of bizarre sexual parties. Horrible reports were coming to Paul.
1 Corinthians 13 addresses the single most impacting factor to Christian community: Love.
Paul was addressing them to say that they weren’t loving well. They were far from what God wanted to see from them. So Paul gives them a list. It reads beautiful and poetic, but it’s a rebuke. And it’s like a mirror to show the Corinthians how they really are, how they are really living, and how they really look like.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
This is Paul asking them to think, “Are you loving? Are you kind?” At some point or another in the reading of this letter the people would have realized that they were living in a wrong way. They had forgotten how bad their practices were and this was a mirror for them to see how bad it was.
1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This letter now is our letter, it helps us still today. When I read all of these things it makes me tired! What is Paul even saying?
Well, at face value, it’s as the list is written. This is tiring for me though. For some of you, on the other hand, you’re ready to go! Not me.
We can psych ourselves up to be patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or rude. We’re going to hope! Endure! Believe!
Am I the only one thinking, “No we’re not! Who are we kidding?”
But what’s amazing is that we take portions of Scripture like this and think that’s where we land. And we think we’re supposed to try harder. We’re not supposed to close our eyes and “hope for the best.” Truth is, we attend every Sunday and know we need to be more patient, kind, and more believing but we find excuses.
We are so far from this list. So what is Paul saying?
The term Paul is using in this section is “agape.” This is a type of love that needs no reciprocation. It’s supernatural and divine.
Phileo love is the type of love you and I know. It’s conditional love and the reason why we got married. It may be the reason you are attending church today. It’s the love that all pop songs sing about. Truth is, Corinthians are not even doing well at basic phileo love. They are rude and do not have social decency.
So what point is Paul trying to make?
If we’re honest about our human nature, this is our state:
Romans 7:19 ESV
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
This is human nature. What we say we’re going to do is tough to follow through on. And what we don’t want to do is what we end up doing. So, reading 1 Corinthians 13, we wonder what the actual proposal is. So, Paul is saying we should actually live agape love?
How? We can’t even do conditional love well, how will we do unconditional love?
Furthermore, if we look again at verses 4-7, Paul uses a word that means “all” repetitively. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Let’s look at the depth of what Paul is saying. Does he simply want us to just try harder at unconditional love? No. That’s what the world thinks. “Just try harder. Pull on your bootstraps. Just do it.”
We don’t really need Jesus for that approach. That’s called goal setting, motivation, or passion. You have to read a passage like this and realize- I need a Savior! I need to be rescued.
Because what is being proposed is ridiculous. We’re trying to love our family, respect a boss, or a neighbor.
Some of you may want to reject what Paul proposes in this passage. Your rebuttal is to love God and love people. What, what? As if you do!
Matthew 22:37, 39 ESV
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
You do that, all of it!?!? Are we fooling ourselves?
What I think Paul is doing is similar to what Jesus did. To bring man to the end of himself. Like a, “God? Are you serious? How?”
You see, you can’t do this without God.
Wouldn’t it be just like God to set it up that we can’t do something without God? That’s the way it should be. You can’t do it unless you are transformed. There would be no death, burial, and ascension without a loving God.
As ridiculous a notion is to live agape love, it’s just as ridiculous to think about what we celebrated on Easter Sunday. But that’s the way it is. Jesus died a wrongful death, was buried in the tomb, came alive three days later and ascended into heaven to live forevermore.
Sounds crazy? That’s called Easter. On this same ridiculous required faith moment, why wouldn’t God say that he wants your life to be defined by something you can’t do on your own? That’s agape.
It’s why John writes about love in this way:
1 John 4:7-12 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Replace the word “love” with “agape” and you will see how God loves us. You can’t “get agape” unless you get God. Agape is the essence of our God.
“Christians” means “Little Christs” and we are now dispensers of God’s agape love. People will see God not because of your info, discipline, lifestyle, ethics, politics, or any persuasion. They will see God through your agape.
Through this relationship with God and living agape, people will see it. They will want to know what it’s about. And all you’ll be able to do is point to God.
Christians are being targeted and killed all around the world. It’s crazy! Christians are being targeted and it’s evil. Who’s being targeted? Those who dispense agape. And even if it costs us our life, I want to love like Jesus has loved me. They will know we are Jesus followers by our agape.
It’s not about a church function, it’s about knowing the agape love of Jesus.
This message is from Judah Smith
Title: “The Life of Agape