The Practice Of Love

Grace For The Journey

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11Feb   Today, we are looking in the second section of 1 Corinthians 13 (verses 4-8) where Paul goes on to show us that love must be practical.  Love is not an “out-of-this-world” thing; nor is it just an ideal you talk about.  It is something that takes place in and operates down in the normal, ordinary pursuits and aspects of life.  That is where love is to be manifest.  There is nothing more helpful, when reading through this chapter, than to ask yourself . . .

  • “Am I growing in love?
  • “Looking back over a year, am I easier to live with now?”
  • “Am I able to handle people more graciously, more courteously?”
  • “Am I more compassionate, more patient?”

These are the measurements of life.

This is why we were given

Physical life, and need to have

The life of God given to us

Through faith in Jesus –

That we might learn

How to act in love.

Nothing else can be substituted for it.  There is no use holding up any other quality we possess if we lack this one.

It is the paramount goal

Of every human life,

And it is well to measure

Yourself from time to time

By this standard.

To help us in doing that,

The apostle gives us

Some very practical

Ways of testing love.

He says in Verses 4-6, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

Notice in these verses there are only three positives; all the rest are negatives.  So, love is really only three simple things, basically – It is patient, it is kind, and it rejoices in the right. (The word really is “truth.” It rejoices in the truth).  The quality of love we are talking about is that which produces patience, kindness and gladness of heart.

The negatives that are given here are associated with love because these are the things we must set aside in order to let the love of God, which is patient, kind, and honest, manifest itself.

We do not have to produce this love in our lives.

 That is the Holy Spirit’s work.

We only have to get the things

That are hindering it out of the way.

Those are the negatives that are suggested here.

All progress in the Christian life comes by first experiencing the cross and then the resurrection.  That is a picture of all we repeatedly go through as Christians.

To give up the pleasure

Which these negative expressions

Give us is to experience

A kind dying to self.

That is the way

Of the cross.

But it always results

In a resurrection,

A release of the power of God

To reach out in patience,

In kindness, and in honesty.

That is the way to love.

Many people admire this chapter on love, but they do not understand how to produce this kind of love.  Paul has been telling us all along through the whole book — that God is ready to love through us if we are ready to renounce the false, the negative expression of our sinful life.  I do not have to argue with you about that.  We all know the temporal pleasure we get out of some of these negative qualities.  We do not want to give them up.  It is so natural to want to rip people apart, give them a piece of your mind, make them suffer for all the injuries they have done to you; or to freeze them out, be silent toward them, and let them stew a little bit.  You know how delightful that is, don’t you?  We want love, but first we want the flesh.  That is why we do not experience the love of God.  Therefore, we are given these negative qualities to help us to understand what we must renounce.

What are the things that keep us from being “patient?”  (That word, by the way, is always used with regard to people, not circumstances).  This word always describes one who is being patient with people so that you do not immediately wipe them out, or turn them off or away; but you are understanding, you wait patiently, and let them work things out.  The word literally means “a great suffering” – enduring some suffering in order to let people have a chance to work out their problem.  That is patience.

“Kindness” means “courteousness, to be gracious, to be pleasant to people.”  That is what love is. What are the things that stop that?

First on Paul’s list is “jealousy.”  We are often not patient or kind because we are jealous.  We are spiteful and short with people because we see them enjoying something that we want.  They have a relationship that we envy; they have a quality about themselves that we do not have and we are angry about it, so we are short and spiteful.  That is one reason why we are not patient and kind.

Next on Paul’s list is “boastfulness.””  Oftentimes we are not patient because we cannot wait to listen to others.  We are so anxious to brag about ourselves so they can begin to admire us.  But that must be surrendered for love to appear.

Then, Paul says, love “is not arrogant.”  Arrogance is disdain, lack of respect for another person, ignoring how he will feel and asserting yourself regardless of what the result may be.  Nor is love “rude,” Paul says.  This is to ignore another’s rights; literally, the term is, “to be puffed up.” It means “to be haughty. or cutting, sarcastic.”  One of the major expressions of rudeness is sarcasm.

And “love does not insist on its own way.”  Literally the word indicates that love is not “stubborn. intractable, inflexible, insisting that everybody else adjust.”  It is willing to find a way, to examine a matter, to look at it from a different angle.  When we get stubborn and inflexible and refuse to even talk about a matter, we are choosing to exercise the self-centeredness of the flesh.  Therefore, we cannot allow the love and patience and kindness of God to appear in that situation.

Then love “is not irritable or resentful.”  Nothing destroys human relationships more than that.  Henry Drummond, in his great little message on this passage, The Greatest Thing in the World, writes about this: “No form of vice – not worldliness, nor greed of gold, nor drunkenness does more damage to people and things than an evil temper.  For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for taking the innocence out of childhood, in short, this sinful evil stands alone.

Finally, love “does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.” Love is not gloating over other people’s miseries or mistakes.  Love does not gloat over another’s misfortune, but rejoices in honesty and truth when it is brought out.  Love is willing to hear even the truth about itself.  It is not so concerned about being protected from hurt or injury as it is in knowing what is really happening.  This is a great quality of true love.

Paul now gathers it all up with this beautiful expression in verse 7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

First, “Bear all things” literally means “covers everything.”  Love covers (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).  When it does learn something unpleasant about another it does not run and scatter it all over the neighborhood.  It does not take delight in some of the misdeeds of others.  Love covers it over, keeps it silent.  Not that it will not do something about it, but it does not spread it about for others to hear.

Secondly, “Love believes all things.”  That does not mean love is gullible. but some have read it that way.  When Jesus was kissed by Judas in the garden He did not say to him, “Oh, Judas, what a beautiful kiss. I’m so glad you have changed your mind and are showing this.”  No, he understood that this was a traitorous action.  He said to Judas, “Would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).  He was not gullible.  He saw Judas’ action for what it was.

What this phrase does mean is that “love is ready to believe anything that has a ground of reality to it.”  It is always ready to start over.  What this phrase means is that “it is ready to trust somebody anew.”  It does not assume the attitude, “Well you’ve done that three times before and you did not do it right so I’m not going to trust you anymore.” If somebody wants another chance love grants it.

Thirdly, love “hopes all things.”  This word means that no cause, no situation, no person is ever regarded as totally hopeless.  There is always a place to for recovery, for reconciliation, and to begin again.  Love will find it; it never gives up hope.  Then Paul adds the final word in this section, love “endures all things.”  Love never quits; it never gives up on anyone.

It has been pointed out that you could take this paragraph and insert “Jesus” in place of the word “love” and you would find that it fits perfectly: “Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus is not jealous or boastful; He is not arrogant or rude; He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Jesus bears all things; He believes all things; He hopes all things; He endures all things.”

When you read it that way

It is clearly evident that

Love is the character of Christ.

That is what the Holy Spirit

Is seeking to reproduce in us,

So that becoming Christlike

Means becoming a more loving person.

This is the measure of our spiritual growth.

I know Christians who do not seem to have changed in twenty years.  They are just as cantankerous and difficult twenty years after they became Christians as they were at the beginning.  Something is wrong in a life like that.

The whole purpose

And thrust of the work

Of the Holy Spirit

Is to teach us to be

Loving, patient, kind, Forgiving,

Understanding, giving others chance,

Trying over again, open to correction

And instruction ourselves,

Easy to be entreated.

These are all the qualities that can be produced in a Christian life.  That is what makes life worth the living.  This is the measure of true Christian spirituality.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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