March 28, 2010
Throughout the Season of Lent, we have been thinking and talking about the Christian basics. What does it really mean to be a Christian? Well, here in our last week, we come to the most basic part of being a Christian: love. Love is the goal of Christianity. Our mission is to be a loving community that changes our world, and the first part of our vision is to be renewed by God’s love so that we love God, ourselves, and others. Love is fundamental to who we are as Christians and as members of this church.
I love how John Wesley explains this: “If you look for anything more than love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way, and when you are asking others, ‘Have you received this or that blessing?’ if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that ... you are to aim at nothing more than that love described in [1 Corinthians 13]. You can go no higher than this, till you are called to” heaven.1
Well, then, let’s read 1 Corinthians 13:
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Of all the Christian basics, love is the greatest. Love is more important than faith or the Bible or hope or anything else. Love is supreme. Without a life filled with love, everything else is beside the point. Everything God wants for us is summarized in one word: love.
Then, why do we find it so difficult to love? Why is it so hard to be patient and kind? Why is it that, no matter how much we pray, we still find ourselves being jealous or boastful or proud? Why do we demand our own way? Why are we so irritable with each other? Why do we keep mental records of the wrongs others have done to us - especially our bosses? Why do we give up on relationships so easily? Why do we find ourselves turning again and again toward selfishness and away from love?
Because we are buried alive. ...
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