By Pastor Bob Miller
Jesus, when speaking to his disciples gave them this command in John 13:34
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
We have been talking about God’s love and about how God puts His love in our hearts so that we love others as God has loved us. When Jesus said, “You are to love one another, even as I have loved you,” He was referring to a love which in the Greek vocabulary is known as agape. God loves us with agape love, and agape is the love we are commanded to love one another. This is the love God pours out in our hearts. It is the distinguishing mark for the Christian.
This love is more than an emotion. It is more than a feeling. It is lasting. It is dependable and strong. This agape love involves the will and is a commitment to a way of living. It is the way of Godliness. To love as God loved us- is what living a Godly life is all about.
This agape love with which we speak is unconditional. It exists prior to any emotional involvement and is unrelated to feelings. We are commanded to agape, and you can’t command someone to “feel” a certain way, but you can command them to a behavior. Agape is a voluntary commitment to another person which motivates us to act on their behalf!
In the Kingdom of God, we first “agape” another person before we even know that person. Agape is a commitment, and it operates independently of what we feel or do not feel.
Agape declares that we will love a person no matter who they are, what they do or don’t do, how they look, smell or behave. By its very nature, this kind of love enables us to build relationships that will last. It is the kind of commitment that the world is craving for.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, begins to share with us about love, and the word that is used here is the very same word used to describe the love of God. It is agape.
Let’s take a look at this agape love so that we can begin to understand better what this kind of love looks like.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.Now in this passage we just read, the Apostle Paul paints for us a beautiful picture of how agape behaves. He puts clothes on love, dressing it up so that we can see what it looks like in real life situations.
The first thing Paul would have us know about agape is that it is pre-eminent and all important. Without love to undergird what we say or do, no matter how important or impressive our words or actions, the results without “agape love” accomplish nothing that will last.
In these first three verses, Paul uses the language of imagination in order to get his point across. Five times he says, “If I.”
“If I speak in tongues"
"If I have the gift of prophecy"
"If I have faith that can move a mountain”
"If I give all, I possess to the poor”….
"If I surrender my body to be burned…”.
Each time, Paul speaks of something that would capture the attention of others. In each instance, people would sit up and take notice and could say, “Look at that person. Isn't he wonderful!” But each time, Paul says “But have not love, I am nothing, I gain nothing, I am only a clanging cymbal.” Without love, great words are empty and without meaning. Without love great deeds are nothing! Paul tells us first, “words without love are just noise!”
Secondly, Paul tells us that gifts without love are useless. Paul mentions great gifts. A gift of faith that could move a mountain, yet without love is worthless.
We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. When love is first, deeds will follow that will express that love. But when acts are expressed without love, no matter how great they appear to be, those deeds will never have their desired effect.
How often do we buy gifts to appease our children when what is needed is LOVE and forgiveness?
Now in verses 4-7, Paul begins to get specific, and he dresses this love up so we can know how it will behave, what it will do and not do.
The first thing Paul tells us is what “love is…” He says in verse 4, that love is patient and kind. Now I want to remind you that patience and kindness come from God. They are part of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists for us in Galatians 5. Just as God pours out His love in our hearts, so He pours out patience and kindness. When you allow God to fill your heart, you have all the patience and kindness you will ever need! To the extent that we are patient and kind in our relationship with others is the extent that we choose to allow God to be in control of our life.
In other words: patience is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Patience and kindness are actions that by the grace and power of God we can choose to express or not express.
You might say, “I’m just not a patient person.” God has given you all the patience you need. You merely need to choose to express it. Patience and kindness are the visible expressions of love that can be seen!
I believe Paul puts them together because they are like two sides to the same coin. Both depend on each other, and neither is fully complete without the other. It is not enough merely to say, “Well I was patient with so-and-so. I didn’t blow up in their face. I was loving!” No, agape love is also kind. It also takes the first step in showing kindness.”
Let’s look at patience. When we talk about patience, we are not talking about what so many of us lack at stop lights. Paul is talking about being patient with people.
Patience means to bear an injustice without anger or despair. It bears up under injustices that are done, without anger or despair. Patience is an expression of mercy.
Jesus taught us that we are to go the second mile, to turn the other cheek, to pray for those who persecute us. Patience is seen in the decision we make to give a person another chance. To not lose our cool or to express our anger uncontrollably. It provides a second chance and a third and a fourth. Patience is revealed in how we respond to people’s sensitivities and foibles. It remembers how God gives us chance after chance and it responds in the same manner. It has an infinite capacity for endurance.
Love is also kind. This means that it is sweet to all. Kindness is loving people more than they deserve. How many of you know someone you need to love more than they deserve? Now let me ask, how many times in your life have you needed someone to love you and be kind to you more than you deserved? You won’t be in a relationship long before there needs to be kindness expressed because there are times when we need to love the other person more than they deserve.
Now the very nature of kindness is this: kindness always takes the first step. By its very nature, it takes the initiative. It is not sitting back and being nice to someone when they are nice to me. That's not kindness. It is taking action and being kind to other people because they don’t deserve it. Kindness by its very nature looks for ways to express itself. It is love looking for a need and then filling it.
Ever hear someone say, “Don’t do that for them, they don’t deserve it”? Let me tell you that is not love talking. Nor is it God talking. Aren’t you glad that God did not wait until we deserved it to show us kindness? While we were still sinners, God died for us! I’m so glad He didn’t wait until I turned to Him.
Love is patient. Love is Kind! They are like pants and shirt we wear when we go out on the town. They are the main part of our outfit. But Paul is not finished. He goes on, and he lists the things that agape is not.
I put on a shirt with my shorts the other day. When I came home from being at church, Jude said, "Go and change that shirt. It doesn’t go well with those pants." She was embarrassed for me. I thought I looked pretty good. She knew better. I went and changed. Apparently, not every shirt and shorts go together well.
These things that Paul lists give the color and texture to what love is not like.
He tells us love does not envy.
It is not jealous.
Love does not boast and is not proud.
Love is not rude.
Love is not self-seeking.
Another translation says love does not insist on its own rights.
Love is not easily angered which means that it is not touchy or easily offended.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Those are the things that love does not do. He finishes by telling us what love always does.
Love always protects. To protect means to cover, instead of exposing.
There are times when we hear things that will hurt. It means we cover it and let it go no further. It also means to endure. It means that love has the ability and the capacity to go on in spite of the problem.
Love always trusts. Love always hopes. This means that love expresses confidence in another’s motives. It is giving a person the benefit of the doubt. It is believing the best in others and seeing the potential that God sees in them. God doesn’t give up on us, nor should we give up on them! It means that we hang in there with them when no one else will! Love always perseveres. Love bears up under disappointment. It is courageous under persecution, and it does not murmur. It is a quiet, stable reaction to people and events, even when they don’t deserve it. It is steadfast.
So there you have it. That is what love looks like when you deal with others. That is how we are called to look.
Read that again. This time put your name where it says "love."
“___ is patient. ___ is kind. ___ does not envy. ___ does not boast. ___ is not proud. ___ is not rude. ___ is not self-seeking. ___ is not easily angered. ___ keeps no record of wrongs. ___ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ___ always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ___ never fails!”
Does it describe you? When you are all dressed up in agape, you can go anywhere and be accepted. It is the most sought-after outfit in all the world. When you wear it, it will turn heads, change lives, and make you attractive to others.
But it is an outfit that can’t be bought or manufactured. It can only be received from its designer. Jesus Christ! And He stands ready to give it to you free of charge. But there is a stipulation. It is to be worn at all times, and before you put it on, you must be willing to bathe! I mean you wouldn’t think of putting on new clothes before bathing would you? We must let Jesus take our jealousy, anger, pride, self-centeredness, and rudeness- and cleanse it by His blood.
John tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
How’s your love life? Are you dressed up ready to love? Do you need his cleansing? Perhaps you need to simply receive the gift He wants to offer. The gift is himself.