The Power of Love – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ~ Message Four, Verse 5

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The Power of Love, Part 4

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Bruce A. Hess

Please take out the Word of God, turn in the Word of God, in the New Testament, to the book of 1 Corinthians and chapter number 13. Now, this is the fourth message in this series and if you missed the first three, we would strongly encourage you to go back and to catch them, because we are building, building, building, as we work our way through. You can go to and get the audio messages there, or you can go to our YouTube channel at Wildwood Community Church Norman Oklahoma and you can watch the videos there. We do want you to catch the whole entire series.

As we have been launching our messages in this series, we have been mentioning some classic songs about love from our culture. I want to mention another one this morning. This is another song that comes from 1984, it is by a group called Foreigner. The title of the song, I Want to Know What Love Is. This was a number one song in the United States, number one song in the UK, I Want to Know What Love Is.

What I really want to focus on are the first lines of the chorus of the song. It says this, mimicking the title,

I want to know what love is I want you to show me

Very apropos lines–if we’re looking at things from the perspective that I am appealing to God and I want to know what love is, and I want you [God] to show me. That is exactly what the heavenly Father does for us through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter number 13.

Now, there is a common cultural belief we have in our culture, in our society, and that is that love happens naturally. You know, you “fall in love.” Now, that has some validity if you just look at the romantic feelings of love. But here is what often happens: those of us who are married, whether it is recently or a longer time, can think back to when we first married. You remember what we were convinced of? You were fully convinced that you knew love. Then later, you bump into certain kinds of twists, certain disappointments in your relationship, and you find yourself thinking:  where did love go?

In 1 Corinthians 13 we are learning that love for others does not just happen naturally. In fact, it involves a commitment of my will to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost. That is the definition of New Testament love. A commitment of my will to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost. In other words, what we’re doing when we go through this series, I think, is to recalibrate our understanding of what love is. I hope as you are going through it—as I am attempting to do also with myself—is to be open, be open for where the Holy Spirit might nudge us about some aspect of love that we need to bolster in our life.

Now, what I want to do is I want to read the first five verses of 1 Corinthians 13 now and invite you to follow along in your Bible as I am reading. Paul writes these words, we’ve seen them before,

“If I speak in the tongues (the languages) of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers, understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.’

Well, what is love?

“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. Love is not irritable or resentful.’

That takes us down through verse 5. Now, I want to remind you that all of these are verbal forms in verses 4, 5, and 6. They may appear, because of the translation, to be an adjective, but they’re all verbal forms. That is why love, biblically, can be commanded because love is not feelings. Really, what he is saying in this section is:  this is what love is, this is what love does. Then, he is also saying on the other hand, this is what love is not, this is what love does not do.

Now, here is what we’ve already looked at as we’ve been working our way through this. We’ve seen this in verse 4, Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love does not Envy, Love does not Boast, Love is not Arrogant, or literally, love is not puffed up being arrogant.

So, now we want to move into verse 5 and we’re going to look at these attributes of love in verse 5. Let’s look at the very first one there in verse 5. It says there that Love is not Rude. It makes sense you would talk about rudeness after you’ve talked about arrogance and being puffed up with yourself. What does this really mean, Love is not Rude? Well, the New American Standard Bible translates it “Love does not act unbecomingly.” The Holman Christian Study Bible has it translated, “Love does not act improperly.”

What is interesting is this is a very rare verb in the New Testament. What does it really mean? Well, this word that is translated here, “rude” or not “acting unbecomingly” or not “acting improperly”, means to be ill-mannered, to be rude, to be crude, to be dishonorable. If we were going to just flip the statement around the other way, we might say:  love has good manners, love has good manners.

I want to tell you a little bit of a story that happened to me when I was in my college years. My family lived in New Jersey, but I went off to go to college in Nebraska. So, I was away from home for that first year and when the summer break came, I went back to New Jersey. When I came back my mother said to me, hey, our new church pastor is in the backyard with the youth group and the youth group was playing volleyball. I had never met this new pastor and she said, why don’t you go out there and you can talk to him and introduce yourself to him.

So, I stepped out into my backyard while this youth group volleyball game was going on. It was easy to pick out the new pastor because he was older guy playing with the youth group. One of the things I noticed right away, as he was playing volleyball with these high school kids, is that there were crude words coming out of his mouth. Not only that, but I also noticed that when he had an opportunity, he enjoyed spiking the ball really hard at some of the high school girls and then he would laugh about that. Then, even as he’s playing, I noticed several times he had some emphatic belches that he let out and he thought that was pretty funny. Later, when the youth group came into our house to get food, there he was loudly ‘passing gas.’ You know, doing all his stuff because he thought it was funny. You know what I’m thinking?  I’m thinking what planet did you fall down from?

Can you imagine Jesus doing those things? Playing volleyball with a high school group and crude words coming out of His mouth, relishing slamming and spiking the ball at the girls, emphatically belching and then making other noises? I mean, would Jesus do that? What was especially interesting is—we didn’t really know what all was going on until later—when he came to our church, he had six kids and several of them were teenagers. One of the startling things that happened is that his teens led the entire youth group into taking drugs. My youngest sister was one of those.

What does all this mean? Well, love is not ill-mannered, love is not rude, love is not crude, love is not dishonorable, love does not act unbecomingly, love does not act improperly.

I like this little quote:  “Manners are the sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.”  This pastor was not displaying that at all. See, love does not disregard another person’s time. Love does not ignore another person’s ideas and another person’s perspective. See, love says “please,” it doesn’t demand things. Love says “thank you” because it values other people.

Have you ever been in a crowded area and somebody—people are moving different directions—and someone bumps into you real strongly, and then you kind of look at them, and they just keep moving? Love doesn’t work that way. If we bump into someone by accident, love would say “excuse, me, I’m sorry.”  Love says to others in traffic situations, you go first. That’s what love does. Love is Not Rude.

The second thing we are going to learn from verse 5, Love does not Insist on its Own Way. What does that really mean? Well, the NIV and the NET Bible translates it, “Love is not self-seeking.” The New Living Translation translates it, “Love does not demand its own way.” I really like the Message, it translates it, “Love isn’t always me first.” In other words, love is not a self-seeker.

Again, we want to be asking ourselves questions as we’re moving through this material. Here’s a good question:  do I tend to be focused on myself first, or on others first? Again, we’re not trying to be “plastic” here, we want to be transparent. Let’s just be honest with one another, right? All of us have an ugly, natural sinful drive. At least, I know that I do…a natural tendency where I want it to be all about me, all about my desires, all about my preferences, where I am just obsessed with my rights. We all have that, and we must deal with that, that selfishness syndrome that we have in our flesh.

The commentator, R.C. H. Lenski said this, this is really a cool statement, he said, “Cure selfishness and you plant a garden of Eden.” Because that is what the problem is, that’s the battle that I have and the battle that you have.

What is interesting is something that Paul says a few verses back from 1 Corinthians 13. He says this in 1 Corinthians 10:33 (NET) , “I don’t just do what is best for me, I do what is best for others.” So, look at that. That is another one of those verses you could put your name in there. When you look at that verse that is what the Lord Jesus did. He didn’t do what was just best for Him.  I mean, coming to this planet, being humiliated, being spit on, being rejected, even by his own people, climbing up onto a cross, having been nailed there, and undergoing crucifixion. Was He doing what was best for Him? No! He was doing what is best for others. That is the way the Lord operated on our behalf.

So, what are we saying? We’re saying that love is not self-seeking, it isn’t always, me first. It gives preference to others. Love is a lifter of other people. Love has a servant attitude towards others. Again, we’re just trying to be honest, I mean we know what goes on in the interior of our heart at times. You know, when you’re  in one of those situations where they are serving food, we naturally, in our flesh, want to maneuver so we can be first in the food line. It’s because we want to get the best food, the best selection, the best stuff. That’s the way we are in our flesh.

Maybe you are married (and we had baby dedication in the service today) and you have a young baby. Many of us knew what it was like then (you might have to think back into the past),  but you know what happens with our flesh. It’s the middle of the night, the baby starts crying because it needs a diaper change, and what does the husband do? Pretend that they don’t hear! Not that I know experientially what that would be like, but I’m speaking, you know, “theoretically” [teasing sarcasm here]

You know, my friend Bob Lepine tells an interesting story. It is a story of a mom who was making cookies one day and her two sons, brothers, were in the kitchen with her and they were waiting for the first cookies to come out of the oven. While they were waiting for the first cookies to come out of the oven, they were arguing between the two brothers as to which one was going to get the first cookie. As moms are prone to do, she thought there is a teaching opportunity here, so she said to her boys, you know what Jesus would do if He were here, right? Jesus would say, You go first. You know what Jesus would do if He was here? He would say to the other one, you go first. The older brother (things were whirling in his mind), and he turned to his younger brother and said, you be Jesus. That’s just the way we’re wired, right? Just the way that we are.

Our model is laid out for us in Philippines, chapter 2. A great passage, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.” Again, as we read through these things, we want to think about ourselves, how are we displaying this? “Let each of you…” how many are included in that? All of us. “Look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind, this attitude among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (be held on to) but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.”

This week I read about an Episcopalian priest, and like all Episcopalian priests, he had the practice of when he would pray and close the prayer, he would make the sign of the cross with his hand first on his forehead, then on the center of his chest, then to the left shoulder, then to the right, making the sign of the cross. You’re familiar with that, right? Well, as he had been demonstrating that, one of the students came to him and said, I understand that’s the sign of the cross, but is that all that it symbolizes? This is a great insight from the Episcopalian priest, he said, well, when I take and touch my forehead and then touch my chest, it forms an ‘I’ [English first-person pronoun]. Then, when I touch my left shoulder and then my right, it severs the ‘I’ in half. See what he was saying? He is saying that the cross ought to sever the ‘I’ in half. Do I operate ‘my way’ or the ‘love way?’ Great question to ask!

So, we have seen so far that Love is not Rude, Love does not Insist on its Own Way. Thirdly, we are going to see now that Love is not Irritable. By the way, irritability grows out of a self-focus. What does that mean, Love is not Irritable?

Well, the NIV and the NET Bible read, “Love is not easily angered.” The New English Bible, “Love is not quick to take offense.” I am just going to confess in front of all of you that at times I can be touchy. My wife can tell you stories, okay? I can be touchy. Have you been that way recently?

See, when we are irritable and touchy, in effect, here is what happens:  love leaves the premises. And we make everybody else start to walk on eggshells [be highly careful about what they say or do]  because you are so easily upset, because I am touchy. I am irritable; I am easily angered; I am quick to take offense. Then, when someone mentions it to us, sometimes we will say, well, it’s just the way I am!

We can be quick to rip other people for what we perceive to be their failures, to rip other people for what we perceive to be their mistakes. A good question we should ask ourselves is, is that what the Lord Jesus does with us? That He is quick to rip us for our failures and our mistakes?

I want to share another quote with you. It comes from the notable ‘theologian,’ from the Kung Fu movies, Bruce Lee, of movie fame. This notable ‘theologian’ made this statement, “A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.”

Part of what Paul is communicating to us is this, that love lengthens its fuse. If you’ve been around Wildwood for a while, you know that I’ve shared this before. Do you know what the difference is between reacting and responding? The answer is, about three seconds…the difference between reacting and responding.

Now, if all that were not convicting enough, we come to a fourth item in verse 5. We’ve seen that Love is not Irritable, but also, we see that Love is not Resentful, love is not resentful. What does that really mean? Well, the New American Standard translates it, “Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.” The NIV translates it, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” The Message, I love this one, short and sweet, “Love doesn’t keep score.”

The verb that is used here is an accounting term and the picture that is being drawn is the picture of a ledger, my own personal little ledger where I am keeping inventory, where I write down, they did that to me…got to mark it down. They said that, got to mark it down. Why am I marking it down? Because I don’t want to forget what they did and what they said.

William Barkley, the commentator, was visiting in Polynesia, where he noticed that there were some relatives who lived there who spent a lot of their time fighting one another in various ways. He noticed, he said, it is customary there for each man to keep some reminders of his dislike of the other person. So, what they would do is, they would suspend from the roof of their hut certain memory things that would keep alive the memory of how that person had wronged them. He goes on to say this, in the same way many people nurse their wrath to keep it warm, they brood over their wrongs until it is impossible to forget them. Interesting picture, right? Hanging little things to remember the wrong done to us.

We do the same thing. We may not live in huts, but we can rivet wrongs in the mental hut of our heart, keeping a record of what was said or what was done. Keeping a record of wrongs will sabotage any relationship…any relationship! It will slit the throat of a friendship or a marriage. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. I like to put it this way:  love doesn’t nurse grudges.

Again, all of us, it doesn’t make any difference even how old we are, I mean all of us have been hurt by somebody else. All of us have been mistreated by somebody else. Yet, we have a choice that we must make about whether we are going to be a forgiving person or are we going to be a resentful person.

I want to share with you—just as a way to maybe avoid some of this—two  common miscues in relationships that we make. The first one is that We don’t Address Issues as they Occur. As they occur, we don’t address them. Here is what we tend to do:  we have frustration; we have some anger; we have some resentment; and what we tend to do is to push that down below the surface. It stays there for a while, but eventually it resurfaces like a submarine ready to do hot battle. That’s why maybe nothing significant happens, but suddenly we just blow up. We don’t address issues as they occur. It is much, much better, and healthier for relationships to address them as they occur.

What is the manner in which we should do that? Well, Ephesians 4:15, “We speak the truth in love,” not in anger, not in screaming, but we speak the truth in love.

So, the first miscue is We don’t Address Issues as they Occur. Here is the second common miscue in relationships and that is, We Assume we Need to Keep Score

Because it is our Job to Elicit Payback. It is our job to elicit payback for what you said or for what you have done to me.

I am going to share with you a passage the Apostle Paul writes about his own personal life in 2 Timothy chapter 4 and verse 14. Here is what he writes there, Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm. I’ll get him back. Is that what he said? No, here is what he actually said: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” What was he saying? He was saying God is the one who is in the justice business.

Romans 12:17, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” Who gets in included in ‘anyone?’ It’s a big word, right? Basically, what he is saying is, Love is not Resentful…love keeps no record of wrongs. What is amazing to me is that the model we have for ourselves is God Himself.

Look at Romans, chapter 4, verses 7 and 8, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin…” That word “count” is the exact same verb we have in 1 Corinthians 13. “Whom the Lord will not count,” won’t ledger his sin.

2 Corinthians 5:19, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting,” there’s that same verb, “their trespasses against them.”

Psalm 103, verse 10, “He does not deal with us,” (aren’t you glad!), “according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”

Here is what we do, we would say:  but they snapped at me; but they criticized me; but they hurt me; they laughed at me. When you start thinking about snapping and criticizing and hurting and laughing at somebody, if we’re going to be honest, we must admit that in most cases we’ve done things just exactly like that ourselves.

A great passage, Psalm 130, verse 3 (NLT), Lord, if You kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive that?

See, men and women, we have a daily choice of whether we’re going to catalogue these things; record them; keep an inventory of them; focus on the sour things that someone has done for us or are we going to instead focus on the sweet things in life and the sweet things in relationships.

Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, focus on those things,” think about those things.

Hey, if we insist on being a list keeper, then list His mercies to you. Here is one thing to remember:  God didn’t lightly sprinkle us with forgiveness, He drenched us with forgiveness.

I like the way one writer put it, “We are a minnow in His ocean of forgiveness.” It is so true and His goodness is to have an impact on how we relate to other people. See how this works? He is the model, and we are to employ that model as we relate to one another.

We have referred to this passage before from Ephesians 4:32 through chapter 5 and verse 2. It goes like this, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love,” that is walk in agape, “as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.” Incredible!

Let’s look at this passage from Ephesians for a moment. Love is not Resentful; Love doesn’t Keep a Record of Wrongs. So, here’s the question, as you look at that passage, what is His will for me? Well, to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. What is a call that I am given to pass along what I have received?? Well, we are to walk in love  (agape), as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.

What about me imitating the heavenly Father? Well, we are called to be imitators of God as His beloved children. And, when we do that, it is a spiritual act of worship. When we respond that way in love it is a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

Some of us may be sitting here and we’re thinking, I can’t do that. That is impossible for me to do that. But, that’s not true. We learn from 1 John 4:8, “God is love,” He is agape. It is possible for me and you to do this. It begins by turning to Christ. It is turning to Him when we choose to trust in Him as our Rescuer from sin and judgment. He actually comes to reside within us, and the whole idea is that we let Him empower us through the Spirit of God who comes to live inside of us.

We’ve got more to cover. Lord willing, we’ll get to that next week. But we do want to talk about some Life Response. What can I do based on what we’ve heard today? Well, I’m going to suggest that we do what we began to talk about last time. That is that you make a grid of your relationships in your life. Maybe your parents, your children, sisters, brothers, roommates, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and your spouse. Then, you take these various attributes we’ve been going through and you check your love quotient in these dimensions of relationships. Where is the Holy Spirit nudging me, nudging us, to refocus? Maybe to repair in some way, shape or form, a relationship in our life that needs to be repaired; to refresh that relationship; to rejuvenate that relationship.

So, let’s pray together. Father, we thank You so much for Your Word. We thank You for how incredible this book is. What a gift You have given to us! We thank You, of course, first and foremost, for the love of Jesus, which is our model and our motivator, to imitate in our relationships on all levels in our life. Work in our hearts, we pray, through Your Spirit, to make us men and women who love more like Jesus loves us. We pray these things in His name. Amen.

Questions for Reflection

The Power of Love

Message 4, 13:5

  1. We can often hear folks say things like “I’ve fallen out of love,” “I don’t love him/her anymore.”  What is the core issue with statements like that?  From this series, what perspective might you share with them?

2.“Love is not rude” (13:5), not ill-mannered or crude. What are some common ways we/others tend to display rudeness?  What type of actions would be the opposite of rudeness?  Make a list.

3.“Love does not insist on its own way” (13:5). What are some practical ways we can give preference to others?

4. “Love is not irritable” (13:5), not touchy or quick to take offense.  What circumstances in life make you more vulnerable to being irritable?

Bruce said that the difference between reacting and responding is what?

5. “Love is not resentful” (13:5), it does not take into account a wrong suffered, keeps no record of wrongs (doesn’t keep score). Why do we have this tendency to “keep score”?

6. Read out loud 2 Timothy 4:14.  What instruction for ourselves is found there?

7. Look at Ephesians 4:32-5:2.  As mentioned in the message:

  • what is His will for me?
  • what are we called to pass along that we’ve received?
  • how are we to imitate our Heavenly Father?
  • how does God view our responses before Him (see the end of vs. 2)?

8. It is a true blessing (giving a salute to the lyrics of Foreigner’s song, I want to know what love Is, I want you to show me) that our God has fulfilled our deep need for Him to show us what love is. He’s done it two ways.  One, by sharing the practical aspects of love from 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Second, by clearly demonstrating His love through what the Lord Jesus did for us by coming into this world to give His life as a ransom for many.  Spend a few moments thanking the Lord both for His Word, and for the greatest act of love ever:  Jesus taking your place on the cross!

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