Wednesday, July 23, 2014

LOVING LIKE JESUS (1 Corinthians Chapter 13)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “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.”

How loving are you?  That was the question asked at a Youth Conference I attended many years ago.  My immediate response to the question was to think of examples in my life where I had done some nice things for someone or had treated others with kindness, etc.  I hadn’t hit or murdered anybody.  I therefore supposed myself to be at least average when it came to loving others.

How loving are you?  Your response to the question will be depend, to some extent, on how you define the word “love.”  Our society has gone through some drastic changes in recent decades.  The golden rule was once commonly understood to be “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That’s changed, the golden rule in our day is “Don’t’ judge.”  Love is now defined in terms of tolerance.  Tolerance is thought to be the supreme virtue and love is therein defined as the capacity to accept and approve of all other beliefs and practices (except when it comes to Biblical truths which are not likewise tolerated).

The term translated “love” in this passage is the Greek agape which is defined as follows: “agapao and the corresponding noun agape present ‘the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the NT” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words).  The term expresses “ideas previously unknown.”  The definition is speaking, of course, in broad terms reflecting the appearance of the term in the progress of revelation.  God’s love has been manifested to us in countless ways (His creation, HIs providential dealings with man, the fact that He patiently endures wishing none to perish, etc.), but its nature and extent has been uniquely defined for us by way of Christ’s sacrifice.  “By this we know love (agape)” wrote the Apostle John.  How do we know?  What does it look like?  How can we distinguish it from the world’s definition or even from its common misrepresentations--what J. Vernon Magee once referred to as “Slippery, Slurpee, Sloppy, Agape.”  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).  Agape love has been demonstrated and defined for us by the person of Jesus Christ in His willing sacrifice for our sins.  The sacrificial and selfless nature of agape love is reiterated to us in other passages in Scripture (Cf. John 13:34-35; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 5:1-2, 25; Philippians 2:3-8).

We should not think of love as something we conjure up in our own strength or according to our wisdom.  Nor is it human love improved upon.  “Love is from God” (1 John 4:7).  It’s been revealed to us in Christ’s sacrifice (Cf. 1 John 3:16).  That “idea previously unknown” has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Cf. Romans 5:5).  As believers, we don’t love because we are somehow in some manner special, we love because the God who is love indwells us and has filled us to overflowing with His love.

Jesus is the standard to which we must measure ourselves (Cf. Ephesians 4:13).  And when we measure ourselves to His immeasurable standard we will always find room to grow (Cf. Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).  What does Christ-like love look like?  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us.  Selfless love is described in terms of what it does and doesn’t do.  The love described is not merely emotional, but volitional and intentional.  The virtuous activities described are the product of difficult decisions whereby fleshly responses are spurned for spiritually preferable alternatives by the direction and power of the Spirit (Cf. Galatians 5:13-24).

What does love look like?  It looks like Jesus.  He is the perfect example of all that is describe for us in this passage.  A rewrite of the passage substituting His name for love would serve to accurately describe Him: Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude.  Jesus It does not insist on (his) own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Jesus commands us to love one another with His kind of love and this is what it looks like (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:16-17). 

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