What love is and what it’s not 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3 February 3, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md

[For the Audio of this sermon click on the following link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the true love of Christ said  AMEN!

There was a really cheesey sitcom back in the early 1970s I remember as a kid. Called “Love American Style”. All the “groovy loving stuff” but everyone was made up all nice in the style of the day, if you remember Bert Convy, kind of smaltz. Sorry if I offended. Of course since we are all smiley and sweet and we just want to LOVE, well everything is just groovy. That show was on for five seasons? The Cornithian church was sort of the same thing, permissive, good ole Roman boys, just wanna have fun. This is not a shot at the stereotype southern “good ole boys”. This is the way it is. Seems every culture has that element. We’re going to be all responsible and appear all dignified, but when we get with the other guys, well hey, who’s going to know. The kind of mindset that is biting people in entertainment, government, education, business, sports, military, because they felt they were special and “boys will be boys” why are you spoiling our fun? That is both men and women.I ’ve seen it in all kinds of settings. The Roman good ole boys were, for the most part, retired Roman soldiers, Roman bureaucrats, those of the day who were retired to Corinth and given a pretty good pension. The types who took their past careers seriously but…. anything else, well not so seriously. I get the distinct feeling that they were the types who might even mess with Paul. Come on Paul, it’s just in fun. I think Paul had a sense of humor, I don’t think he was the “good ole boy” type, and well, kind of probably didn’t appreciate the lifestyle etc., that would be up to and including one of the members co-habitating with his father’s wife, let’s just say yada-yada…

So “Love Corinthian style”. The lead-up to today’s reading is in terms of being “one body”, the church is composed of every person in the church, the Body of Christ. When one part of that Body is hurting, or somehow dysfunctional it hurts the rest of the body, the rest of the Body feels pain e.g. if I stub my toe, the rest of the Body also suffers in terms of pain; if part of the Body decides to be defective, or functioning in some way counter to the body, such as one member of the body sleeping with his step-mother well the rest of the body just pooh-poohs, oh that’s not so bad, be a good boy, come back to the church. Love Corinthian style! Of all the churches mentioned in the New Testament, they all still exist today, except … You guessed it the Corinthian church, kinda have to wonder why. Maybe the Cornithian church was God’s object lesson to the whole church? When it served its purpose and probably became even more degenerate it simply collapsed from the weight of “Christian” pretense and just run of the mill sin.

It is a great object lesson in terms of what they-then and the American culture today refers to as “love”. This reading starts with Paul saying “And I will show you a more excellent way.” (1Cor 12:31b) Since we only read “B” part of verse 31, we miss the “A” part that says “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Preach it Paul! The higher, greater, satisfying, honorable, genuine love and trust! Praise God! Paul does what comes to us as one of the most compelling, instructive, passages of Scripture, what love is and does and what “love” is not and does not! What is often referred to as the “Love Chapter” of Scripture. Love is a hot topic today, what it is and what it’s not. Too often we have a culture that sees “love” as enabling, debauched, indulgent, permissive, not really love, but plain simple sin called love in order to make it nice. A culture that likes to pat the church on the head and say “you go take care of poor people, and the elderly and we will decide what “love” really is. It’s been the same through history, when the culture decides what “love” is, it always comes out as decadence. The Corinthian culture was all about decadence, calling it love. This seems to have spread through the Roman culture. The Roman culture was once strong, sensible, responsible, serious enough to conquer the world. Much of our law today is based on Roman law. Rome had a very capable government, a legal system that was amazing for its time. A culture, economy, strength and integrity, that wasn’t Christian, but was still admirable. All that came crashing down after hundreds of years under the weight of the decadence that we see a microcosm of in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Frankly, very much of what we see in today’s culture. I’m not opening a debate on abortion, but right now we have people look you in the face and say it’s loving to abort a child at birth! The Roman’s had their own abortion debate, they’d leave babies exposed in the forest or hills to die. Christians would rescue those children.

The Greek word used by St Paul is avga,ph there are four words in Koine Greek that are translated into the English word for love. The word love in English is often understood to be anything for lust, covetousness, familiarity to altruism. The Greek word means altruism. Dr J Vernon McGee’s definition: “…the highest word for love in the New Testament and means ‘divine love’. It is more than love in the emotion; it is love in the will. It is love that chooses its object. It is a definition of God, for God is love.”[1]

What is the opposite of love? … no it’s not hate. When you think about it, hate requires some genuine passion, you have feelings for the object of your hate. They may not be edifying feelings, but it takes work to hate. I’ve always said I really don’t hate anyone, as much as the current culture would like to live in its delusion and paint someone like me as the hater. I’ve seen hate from secular-humanists and wow! It would just take too much energy and I have genuine, important things to do. Being just ugly, nasty, really evil? I can’t rise to that.

The opposite of love is “indifference”. and that is really what today’s society is about. “I really don’t care what you do, so therefore I love you????” You want to be about love, use the discernment that God gives us. Take the time to genuinely figure it out, what is really going on and what is really necessary, not just “whatever!  Do whatever you like”. That’s not love, that’s indifference and that is so much more negative and destructive in the long run! Hate destroys right now. Indifference is corrosive, negative, ugly. Don’t care it’s your problem, you deal with it. Make yourself into whatever you want, and when you find how destructive it is, hey, don’t come running to me. This is what we try to protect against in the culture, immature minds telling us what they want. I saw this on the FaceBook page of a person, what is the creed of the culture: “Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand, and accept me for who I am.” That is a rhetorically null, translates into “leave me alone unless I want something from you” that’s what today’s society is about. When do we run out of the people who will be there to pick up the pieces, who will just stop caring?

The culture reads this part of the Bible and claims: “Paul said love is the greatest of all, and this is how I define love, so therefore, it’s all about me and how I love.” No! First, you don’t understand the definition of the word Paul is actually using. Second, you don’t understand the context. Hey why go to all that trouble, the world would say, just do it my way, why do you care anyway? Ya, I do, because what you’re selling is so destructive.

Faith and hope are imperfect. Why? In the eternal resurrection, will faith and hope be necessary? No. When we are in the perfected world God has restored, there is no need to look toward anything in faith and hope, it is right there for us. What is the one thing that will remain, that is eternal? Love! We will be in the presence of love. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melanchthon writes: “Faith and hope have to do only with God. But love has infinite offices outwardly toward humanity.”[2] I’d say God’s pretty important, so faith and hope are important. But love is eternal, in that respect it is the greatest. But for us today, we have to not only communicate love, but the hope and promise that we have in Christ in order to realize that eternal love with Him in the eternal resurrection, that is only for those who are in Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] Dr J Vernon McGee  “Thru the Bible Commentary series The Epistles First Corinthians” p 152

[2] Philip Melanchthon “Apology of the Augsburg Confession” (Ap V 105)

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