We continued in the “Summer Love” series this past Sunday. “Love does not envy and does not boast…” was the section from 1st Corinthians 13 that we focused on. Before we began to unpack those two thoughts and their implications, we stepped back to consider three thoughts about Paul’s purpose for even writing this beautiful and challenging chapter to the church of Corinth. Here are those three thoughts and a few conclusions…
1 – Paul is offering a contrast between what is actually present in the relationships among the church of Corinth (divisiveness, impatience, unkindness, jealousy, dishonesty, immorality) and what must be present in their relationships if they are truly concerned about the “Head of the church” and not being the “head” of the church.
Paul didn’t completely discredit everything the church of Corinth was doing. He just called them to a “more excellent way” (1st Cor 12:31). They needed to seek reconciliation with God and with one another for their non-loving actions, jockeying for importance and position among the church family, and instead embrace the love of God coming alive among them.
2 – In this chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians, Paul is NOT offering a few how-to’s for personal self-improvement, nor is he offering a pity-stick to pick up and beat ourselves up with because we aren’t living these out.
It is amazing how we as humans can take the mission and intention of God for His people and turn them into moral codes of self-actualization. It is also amazing how prone we are to taking the commands of God and the description of His ways among us and turn them into pity-sticks, beating ourselves up as failures as though we could never live these out. It is true that on our own we can’t, but He didn’t intend for us to go it alone. That’s why He came. That’s why there’s love. And that’s why He calls us to love one another.
3 – What these verses ARE is the picture of God alive in our relationships. God alive in us, tasted instead of our selfish flavors, seen instead of the more common darkness and the hiddenness of our lives.
Remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 5? Let’s read it (Matthew 5:13-16, the Message):
13 Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. 14 Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15 If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Well, John picked up on this teaching. Not only did he record the new command Jesus gave to love in John 13:34-35, but he also wrote that “God is love” in 1st John 4. There in 1st John 4, John wrote that if we are “in Him” then He will be “in us” and “through us.” His love controls us. Compels us. Moves us.
Paul picked up on the same thought, obviously, expressing it on multiple occasions. But specifically, in 2nd Corinthians 5, he wrote out the Gospel of Jesus and its implications progressively in these significant verses:
12 We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. 13 If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. 14 Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes.
His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. 15 He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. 16 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. 17 Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
18 All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 19 God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. 20 We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 21 How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
We are moved by the love of Jesus.
His love, given completely because of who He is not because of how lovable we were, made everything right between us and God. And now, that kind of compelling love, mysterious love, change-everything love transforms our very relationships, allowing us to see each person through the lenses of the love that we have “in us” rather than the feelings of impatience, frustration, woundedness, or bitterness that we might have toward them. His love changed us. The evidence of that fact is seen when His love changes everything else in and around us.
Here’s THE POINT: Love is central to God, and thus must be central to His followers and His mission to which He has called them. Paul is writing in 1st Corinthians 13 a very simple, focused message:
Church of Corinth, you say you love God and have been changed by Him. If so, then He will be tasted and seen in you in place of the tastes and sights of the selfishness and personal advancement that you are currently displaying among one another and among your community.
That hits close to home. I am asking myself this question – DOES HIS LOVE HAVE THE FIRST & LAST WORD IN EVERYTHING I DO?
PRAY_Lord, teach us to love, help us to love, and may we be secure in Your love.
LIVE_focus on being more concerned today about the story of someone else’s life rather than just being the star of your own.
Tune back in Thursday for a break down of “love does not envy and does not boast.” Love y’all! Thankful to be the church and live sent together with you.